By Fred Bouchard | Published July 2016
Here’s an ambitious, out-of-the-box invention, even for a veteran Los Angeles studio player whose CV lists 1500 film scores, endless sessions, big-name performances and sheaves of band charts.
Scratching his itch to cut a Latin jazz album as his thirteenth CD, Jim Self, a polished, soulful tubist, made a deep move that trusted little to luck: He hired frequent session-mate Francisco Torres, a trombonist extraordinario and music director for conguero Poncho Sanchez’s band; he chose nine sweet tunes, writing and arranging the charts himself; and presided over the mixing and mastering.
The result is a handsome nonet set with a smart, loose feel. Five tasteful originals are bookended by classics conjuring Cal Tjader, Tito Puente and Clare Fischer. The agile nonet notches cred and clout for eschewing a drum set in favor of a three-man Afro-Cuban section. Throwback steadiness and L.A. relaxation make the recording a cozy one.
Easygoing solos stud the album: Rob Hardt’s tenor (“Cal’s Pals”) and soprano (“Sweetest Blue”) declamations are especially compelling, and Torres unleashes a hot solo on his snappy mambo “For Charlie.” On “Morning” and “Encognito,” Self turns to his one-and-only fluba&a tuba-sized flugelhorn—and blows mellow as milk-punch.
Standout Andy Langham’s piano comes alive midway, with sparkling solos and sparking montunos that spur the percussionists toward rhythmic bliss. Check out the segue to Joey de Leon’s bata on “Sweetest Blue.” A perfect soundtrack for a summer barbecue—with lots of margaritas.
¡Yo!: Cal’s Pals; Poinciana; For Charlie; Encognito; Sweetest Blue; Quiero Llegar; ¡YO!; Old Arrival; Morning; Dog Tags. (52:57)
Personnel: Jim Self, tuba, fluba; Francisco Torres, trombone, arrangements; Ron Blake, trumpet; Rob Hardt, tenor, soprano, flute; Andy Langham, piano; Rene Camacho, acoustic bass; Joey De Leon, Giancarlo Anderson, George Ortiz, percussion.