|Los Hombres Calientes - Live at the House of Blues|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 20 April 2004|
How do you like your Latin jazz – hot and spicy, with a Zydeco feel, perhaps? If so, then you’re in for a treat with the latest release from Los Hombres Calientes. This is a concert DVD that was recorded at The House of Blues in the French Quarter district of New Orleans. The main leaders of the band are Bill Summers, who is a percussionist extrordinaire who has played in Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters for some 20 years now, and Irvin Mayfield, who is a trumpeter’s trumpeter. These guys can definitely play and they’ve surrounded themselves with some outstanding talent in this band. The music swelters from the intense percussion section, where all the band members take a turn at some form of percussion at one time or another in this concert. It would be virtually impossible to stand still watching these guys play. The music swirls all around, with wonderful rhythms that just entranced me.
I had not previously heard of this band, but after watching this disc, I was thoroughly impressed with their talent. The time signatures alone in the songs were enough to impress me, but what really hooked me was the interplay amongst the musicians. You can tell that they listen to one another while on stage. They have four previously released CDs, from which all the music at this concert was selected. There are several shots of the dance floor and you can see the incredible amount of joy the crowd has while watching this band. If I’m in New Orleans (or anywhere for that matter) and see this band on any bill, I will definitely be there. Their stage show is very enjoyable and you can tell that they have a lot of fun while they play. Summers and Mayfield talk about how they came across all these songs and which ones they wrote. All of these songs are influenced in one way or another by Caribbean culture.
The very first song on this disc is “Vodou Hoodoo Babalu,” which reminds me a little bit of Desi Arnaz. I could hear him in my head singing “Babalu,” and that’s not a bad thing, either. The one song that really stands out for me is “El Negro” – this song cooks! The piano solo alone is worth the price of this disc and Summers’ percussion work on the song is phenomenal. It’s like I wrote earlier: these are serious musicians who really know how to play. On “New Bus Stop,” Summers is simply out of this world. I read an article online that said, “Calling Bill Summers a percussionist is like calling a Steinway a piano.” I wholeheartedly agree. He is simply amazing, and quite the showman as well. Mayfield does a solo at the end of “Night In Tunisia” that sounds like “Flight of the Bumblebee.” They are first-rate musicians, that’s for sure. The Cajun feeling mixed with the Latin jazz is really a good combination. Both of these types of music ooze incredible amounts of sexuality. This band knows that, and they know how to play it.
One thing I didn’t like about this disc is the mix; I found it to be very pedestrian. The mix didn’t add anything to the music and more times than not took away some of the music’s impact. There are not a lot of vocals on this disc, but when they are there, you can barely hear them. And the bass, where is it? I know there’s a bass player in the band, but you would be hard-pressed to hear him. On the video, that’s in the special features segment of the disc you can hear the bass, but during the concert, it’s something that just isn’t present, or at least present enough for me. In fact, the overall tone of this disc is somewhat trebly. The 5.1 mix doesn’t really stand out either, except for the fact that the mix is like you’re on stage, which is nice, but if you were on the stage, you’d be able to hear the bass, wouldn’t you? Other concert discs that I’ve reviewed in the past generally have the rear speakers as the crowd side of the mix, but this one doesn’t do that. That’s not a rap against the mix, though, just an observation.
Overall, I did like this disc and would recommend it to anyone who likes jazz and or Latin jazz. This DVD would be a perfect disc for a Saturday afternoon barbeque or maybe Sunday morning while reading the paper and having a cup of coffee. It is really quite enjoyable. Despite the problems that I had with the mix, I still enjoyed the music and energy they create on stage. And boy, do they create energy, lots of it. Pass the Tabasco sauce, please …