I already had other plans for saturday night, but a friend of mine invited me go to Calle 54 (a club-restaurant run by spanish director and latin-jazz lover Fernando Trueba) to see the Larry Martin Band live. The singer, Yoio Cuesta, was a friend of her, and she wanted to go, so she convinced me. And I'm glad she did!
Larry is a well-know spanish drummer (though I must confess that I had never heard him playing before), who is right now presenting his just released CD, mostly comprised of jazz standards and other blues & jazz tunes.
The place was nice, with a lot of people but not overcrowded, the sound was great (I really liked that), and the repertoire was perfect, not one song was out of place. They played several really-inspired renditions of Horace Silver's songs, and such popular standars as Brubeck's "Take Five" (By the way, Larry played his only drum solo of the concert during this song, which is an interesting fact considering its odd time signature), along with some of their own compositions.
About the musicians, the pianist was very good, although his sound was not really jazzy and it had some sort of classical feeling to it. That was specially noticeable when playing blues-soul tunes (they played "Hit the road Jack"). Anyway, his technique was awesome, and he played some interesting phrases. Both the guitarist and the bass player were okay, but they were by far the least interesting members of the band, and were shadowed by the good quality of the other members. The bass player played just one solo, and I have to admit that I was surprised. His solo playing was definitely better than his work as a rhythm player, which was a bit monotone. About the guitar player, I have a very narrow taste for guitarists, and he was not among the ones that I like. I'm not saying he was bad, but I did not really dig his style.
Larry is the leader of the band and when you see him playing you inmediatly understand why. His understanding of jazz rhythm is outstanding. He is exactly the kind of drummer that I like, who can play very complex patterns but at the same time he can fill a whole song just with a few simple hits. His solo was simple and effective, and nothing in his playing was superfluous. For a modern drummer, that is, unfortunately, rather strange.
And I leave for the last place my comments on the singer, Yoio Cuesta. Being the friend of a friend, I do not know why, but I did not expect her to be a brilliant singer. Surprisingly, she amazed me from the very first bars she sang. Her voice was warm and rich, and she looked comfortable in all the different registers they played. Most of spanish singers have a rather poor english acccent, which in my opinion can ruin a song, but, fortunately, that was not the case. Also, she made some Ella-like scat that was even better than when she was singing the lyrics of the song (By the way, did anyone know that "Take Five" had lyrics?. Who wrote them?! Paul Desmond himself??). If that was not enough, she had and impressive presence on the stage, sensually moving while she sang, and displaying such a degree of confidence that from the very first song it was pretty obvious that she was a more than experienced artist. She abandoned the stage a few times while the other performers were playing their solos, something that I found particularly respectful. She could have kept on dancing during that time and probably no one would have payed attention to the music ;-)
Right now, Larry is the leader of the band...but stay alert, man...Yoio is a serious candidate to take your place!!
In short, a great concert and a great band. If you want more information, they have a website (www.larrymartinband.com). In this site you can find information about the band and also some other very interesting things such as Larry's opinion on the MP3 revolution and the role of major discographic labels... an opinion that I completely share with him. Kudos to Larry not only as a gifted musician, but also as an artist and person!