Crisol | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Crisol 

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CRISOL

It's hard to know where to start singing the praises of Crisol's just-released Habana (Verve). You could credit young trumpet superstar Roy Hargrove for finally giving himself over to the Afro-Cuban rhythms that have percolated through his recordings since 1990. You could home in on the marvelous Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes, cofounder of the Cuban jazz combo Irakere and artistic director for the Havana Jazz Festival--in which role he invited Hargrove's regular quintet to perform in Cuba last year, thus setting the machinery in motion for this project. You could even examine the splendid cross-cultural balance achieved by Puerto Rican saxist David Sanchez, whose mastery of both the Afro-Cuban and postbop jazz traditions emblematizes the purpose and promise of Crisol. However you slice it, Habana comes out a captivating success. Admittedly Hargrove is hardly the first jazzman to discover the wonders of Cuban music and the impact of authentic island rhythms; Dizzy Gillespie did it up right in the 40s, and this decade in particular has seen a number of similar hybrids. But in throwing the weight of his reputation behind Crisol, Hargrove has done more than just open a path of personal discovery; he has also focused the spotlight on such musicians as Changuito, the best known of the three Cuban drummers who--along with Valdes and Sanchez--are touring with Crisol. As you might expect, given his firm grounding in the mainstream jazz tradition, Hargrove doesn't travel too far afield; the band's chosen dialect is jazz with a strong Caribbean accent, not Cuban roots music with a jazz patina. As a result, Crisol's repertoire emphasizes evocative compositions by Hargrove and trombonist Frank Lacy, as well as a pair of classic examples of hard bop's infatuation with "the Latin thing," Kenny Dorham's "Una Mas" and "Afrodisia." With strapping soloists, authentic rhythm players, and a warm respect for the Cubans who energized the dance bands of popular memory, Crisol presents the aroma of Havana--and perhaps, in Hargrove's case, a whiff of things to come. Crisol performs on the main stage as part of this weekend's Jazz at Ravinia festival; living legend Sonny Rollins headlines. Saturday, 8 PM, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. Sanchez also leads his own quintet at 6 PM in the venue's Martin Theatre. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Crisol photo/ uncredited.

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