If you like the way Horace Silver's band and Art Blakey's band played Latin-jazz then you'll love Marty Sheller's "Why Deny." To aficionados of Latin music (and particularly those who collect records of these genres), Marty Sheller's name is certainly a familiar one. As a trumpet player he's best remembered for his work with Mongo Santamaria's 1960's group, where his solos were acclaimed both for their fiery quality and clarity of organization (he was the soloist on Mongo's hit recording of the Herbie Hancock composition "Watermelon Man"). Marty's long and busy career as a valued arranger-composer-producer for many of the biggest names in Latin-jazz, Salsa music and jazz -- including Tito Puente, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, Hector LaVoe, Larry Harlow, The Fania All-Stars, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Shirley Scott, George Benson, Jon Faddis, David Byrne, Idris Muhammad, Giovanni Hidalgo, T.S. Monk, Steve Turre, Woody Shaw, and especially his close colleague and friend Mongo Santamaria --left him little time to contemplate recording his own music. But he finally resolved to address that oversight at the urging of friends, organizing several sessions with nine of his favorite musicians. After nearly a half century as a key behind-the-scenes figure, Marty Sheller has finally stepped out of the shadows with "Why Deny," a vibrant new CD of Latin-influenced jazz that he produced and arranged. The musicians on the CD are experienced in both jazz and Latin music. Pianist Oscar Hernandez, bassist Ruben Rodriguez and drummer Vince Cherico provide the rhythmic foundation, with percussion parts added by Steve Berrios. The frontline consists of trumpeters Chris Rogers and Joe Magnarelli, trombonist Sam Burtis, tenor saxophonist Bob Franceschini and alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli, Sheller's longtime friend and musical collaborator. The horn players interpret the songs from a strictly jazz point of view; it's the rhythm section that follows a Latin groove, but within that they're playing with a jazz approach. The rhythmic basis of Afro-Cuban music is the "clave," a two-bar, five-beat repetitive pattern. But on this CD, the clave is camouflaged. In "The Route 40 Flyer," "Love In A Mist," "El Pavo," and Wayne Shorter's "Mahjong," the typical Sheller use of Latin elements is implicit rather than explicit. There are no congas, bongos or cow bells (other than some tasty percussion overdubs by Steve Berrios) to make the Latin-ness obvious. Nor does the music employ the call and response forms of typical Afro-Cuban music (other than the piano guajeo/vamp that Oscar Hernandez beautifully integrates into the final drum solo of "Mahjong"). What makes these numbers "get over" with the listeners is not the externals of form or tone color, but the deeply "bilingual" musical roots of all the players. On the album's sole ballad, "Sweet And Lovely," Sheller incorporates harmonies inspired by Thelonious Monk's version of the standard; Porcelli is the featured soloist. Sheller says that "It was a great joy from an arranger's point of view to have my music played by the excellent musicians in this band. They make it come alive -- it becomes more than just the notes written on paper." Aficionados who've followed his career will surely be pleased, while those experiencing his music for the first time are unlikely to deny that this is important music that transcends labels.
"This is a great CD -- full of hip New York City stuff -- that's the only way to put it. Wonderful playing and of course there's the unique Marty Sheller composing and arranging style which is still as fresh as it was 30 years ago!" --Randy Brecker
"This recording reflects the best in Marty -- great music, great arrangements, great band, a great sound, and Bobby Porcelli sounds better than I've ever heard." --Sonny Fortune
"Marty Sheller is a musician's musician. Growing up in the Latin field, whenever I found myself playing a particularly hip arrangement, nine out of ten times it was Marty's. But quiet as it's kept, Marty can write anything...big band, conjunto Latin, straight-ahead jazz, you name it! And, like my father, do it all with grace, humor and brilliance. For this project, Marty has assembled the absolute finest Latin-jazz musicians on the planet. The groove that the rhythm section produces sounds effortless and inspired. The horn players are razor sharp yet filled with the kind of improvisations that combine pure imagination with technical mastery. This is a great CD from a master composer and arranger. May this be the first of many, many, many more!" --Arturo O'Farrill