What comes to mind when you think of Washington, D.C.? Jazz, of course. No? Well, you obviously haven't heard the Afro Bop Alliance. This Grammy Award-winning ensemble, centered in the center of power, is led by percussionist Joe McCarthy, but the tunes are written and arranged by several different band members. All of them are masterful in their use of the color palette this collection of musicians is capable of.
The core group includes Luis Hernandez, tenor saxophone; Vince Norman, alto saxophone; and Tim Stanley, trumpet on the front line; with Harry Appelman, piano; Tom Baldwin, bass; and McCarthy, drums. One ingredient that makes them unique is the inclusion of Victor Provost on steel pans. Provost also does some vocals but Sara Jones steals the show in that department with her wonderful rendition of "Nature Boy."
Additional players include Paula McCarthy, violin; Suzanne Orban, cello; The St. Claire Chamber Strings; and Roberto Quintero, percussion. There's also one very special guest: Paquito D'Rivera, who sinuously slides in, around and over the chords of Provost's "Homenaje" on clarinet. As for the title tune, it's played at a faster clip than usual but that's what makes this group great; nothing is predictable.