Diego Urcola's new record, Viva, features the Grammy nominated trumpeter leading an all-star lineup. "I wanted to put together my dream band," said Urcola. The core group of Edward Simon, Avishai Cohen, Antonio Sanchez, and Pernel Saturnino are joined by guests, Paquito d'Rivera, Jimmy Heath, Dave Samuels and Conrad Herwig. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Paquito," Urcola says. "He gave me my first big break, and I got to meet a lot of people through him, including Dave, with whom I've been working in the Caribbean Jazz Project for the last three years." Heath was Urcola's advisor for his master's degree at CUNY/City College-Queens College and later an employer in his big band and quintet, while Herwig is a friend via the United Nations Orchestra. Viva features four Urcola originals; two from fellow Argentine composer/big bandleader Guillermo Klein; a pair from another Argentine composer and one of Urcola's best friends, Juan Raffo; a piece by Heath, and the Astor Piazzola classic, "Adios Nonino," a sublime melody the bandoneon master wrote for his father. "I love this tune," says Urcola. "I wrote this arrangement a few years ago for a concert I did with Paquito." On Viva, a sensibility of experimentation is vibrantly apparent throughout. So too is Urcola's aim to integrate his homeland's voice into the jazz idiom. "I like to bring the tango flavor from my country into the mix," he says, then adds, "But foremost I'm a jazz musician."
For the most part, the Latin jazz standouts have been pianists, percussionists, and bassists. Thankfully, Argentina-born, New York-based trumpeter/flugelhornist Diego Urcola is the welcome exception. A rounded sideman who has worked with the United Nation Orchestra and the Caribbean Jazz Project and has appeared in the documentary Calle 54, Urcola has a rich, Milesian/Freddie Hubbard-toned sound that is equally at home negotiating the intricacies of the tango, the clave, and straight-ahead swing. On this CD his third as a leader -- Urcola fronts a dynamite lineup that includes alto saxophonist/clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, and marimba/vibes man Dave Samuels. The ten-track program impressively ranges from the dark and dancing "Tango Azul" and the milonga-mooded title tune to the boppish "Blues for Jimmy" and a riveting reading of Astor Piazzolla's "Adios Nomino." Dizzy Gillespie made an album entitled Have Trumpet Will Excite! Diego Urcola does just that. --Eugene Holley, Jr.