Editors' pick

T.K. Blue

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Editorial Review

Album review: "LatinBird"

On “LatinBird,” T.K. Blue salutes bop progenitor and fellow alto saxophonist Charlie Parker in ways that are fresh, distinctive and often festive.

Emphasizing rhythm over reverence, Blue (a.k.a. Talib Kibwe) sounds restlessly inventive, drawing on a colorful mix of clave patterns, second-line parade grooves, calypso beats, samba pulses, meter shifts, blues tropes, funk accents and overdubbed horns to celebrate Parker’s genius and legacy. Not all the tunes are from Parker’s songbook; Thelonious Monk’s “ ’Round Midnight,” a Parker favorite, is soulfully revisited by Blue, evidence of his sleek lyricism. But some of the most engaging performances — “Barbados,” “Donna Lee” and “Chi Chi” — are from Parker’s pen, animated by a tight ensemble featuring pianist Theo Hill, percussionist Roland Guerrero and guest trombonist/conch shell virtuoso Steve Turre. Drummers Willie Martinez and (special guest) Lewis Nash balance thrust with finesse throughout, while Guerrero, Hill and bassist Essiet Essiet are primarily responsible for bringing the album to a rhythmically joyous close with “Buzzy.”

Blue contributes two compositions along the way. The leisurely “Moods of Parker” takes its cue from the bop legend’s classic “Parker’s Mood.” Better yet is the Parker-inspired “He Flew Away Too Soon,” an elegiac theme dedicated to the late trombonist Benny Powell.

— Mike Joyce, May 20, 2011