IMPACT Liner Notes
The main purpose behind the RG Royal Sound Orchestra, the vision of producer Recaredo Gutierrez, is to bring back good music. "In addition to Latin music, I love big bands," he says, "including that of Ray Conniff, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Damaso Perez Prado, and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. I believe in a pure sound with no electronics. My goal is to have a new orchestra play classic music for today's audience."
Gutierrez was the founder of the Tropicana All Stars Big Band which recorded a Grammy-nominated album in 2003 and was modeled after the legendary Benny More's "Banda Gigante." In putting together the RG Royal Sound Orchestra, he sought not only to bring back the sound of 1950s Cuban orchestras but to include more recent American standards (mostly from the 1960s and '70s) and the influence of flamenco from Spain.
Featured throughout this wonderful set is trumpeter Adalberto Lara who plays the beautiful melodies with lots of feeling. A veteran of such groups as Irakere, La Tipica Moderna, Orquesta de Musica Moderna, Cubanismo, and Tropicana All Stars, and one who has recorded with Emiliano Salvador, Generoso Jimenez, Paquito D'Rivera and Ruben Gonzalez among others, Lara has a classic Cuban wide vibrato which is perfect for embracing the themes of these songs.
Also heard in a featured role is tenor-saxophonist Ed Calle. He first became known in the jazz world for his work with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, displaying the ability to challenge Sandoval in stirring upper register tradeoffs. Calle's solo albums have ranged from Afro-Cuban jazz to smooth, moody sets to r&b romps. His playing is always full of passion.
The 20-piece RG Royal Sound Orchestra, which is comprised of 13 horns and a seven-piece rhythm section that includes two guitarists and two percussionists, is an exciting new band on the music scene. On their well-titled Impact, they perform three arrangements apiece from musical director Mike Lewis and Hilario Duran plus two from Tony Taño, Jorge Arronte and Raul "Lulo" Perez. Duran, Arronte and Perez split the piano duties throughout the album. "People familiar with the original versions of 'I Left My Heart In San Francisco' and 'As Time Goes By' probably couldn't imagine these versions," says Gutierrez, "and that is true of all of these songs. 'O Sole Mio' certainly does not sound like it is a hundred years old.. Our arrangers came up with some very fresh ideas, bringing out the beauty of these timeless songs."
Adalberto Lara's dramatic trumpet is a major asset to the band, as can be heard on the opening "Hotel California." The impressive trumpet introductions to "My Way" and "Can't Help Falling In Love" are taken by Richard Gutierrez (Recaredo's son) who was 15 at the time and is a student of Lara's. The large rhythm section adds a great deal of rhythmic excitement to these pieces and a particularly spirited "Volare." "As Time Goes By," which was originally a flop when it debuted in the early 1930s, a decade before it was immortalized in Casablanca, has been recorded many times through the years. This version with Lara in the lead is quite unique.
All of the songs on Impact are quite danceable. The disco hit "That's The Way" is highlighted by some explosive Calle and the stirring rhythm section. "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," with its dense rhythms and infectious horn riffs, owes little to Tony Bennett other than the warm melody. Guitarist Lindsey Blair is a particularly important part of both of these performances.
"Strangers In The Night" and "Yesterday" are two songs that have been standards since the 1960s recordings of Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. The RG Royal Sound Orchestra manages to make both tunes sound as if they were written for this band. "New York, New York" and "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" are Latinized and sound like salsa standards. "O Sole Mio," written in 1898 and a major hit for the legendary opera singer Enrico Caruso, is brought into the 21st century in this transformation. This project ends all-too-soon with a very spirited and infectious version of "Macarena,"
There are plans for the RG Royal Sound Orchestra to perform concerts in Miami and at jazz festivals. Those promise to be exciting events for, as one can hear throughout Impact, the orchestra creates exciting music that is both very danceable and well worth listening to closely. As Recaredo Gutierrez says, "It is time for quality music to come back."
Author of ten books including Afro-Cuban Jazz, The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film, Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record 1917-76