One of the great perks of being a world class, in demand jazz musician and artist is the opportunity to travel the globe, perform for eager audiences on numerous continents and, with any luck, take a personal day or two in each locale to explore the terrain and culture. Having enjoyed countless such blessings over the years, Russ Spiegel turns to the organ trio with horns and harmonica to reflect on some of the countless places he’s been on his latest work, a frolic-filled travelogue he (for some reason) titles Caribbean Blue.
I say “for some reason” because, with the exception of the gently swaying title track (featuring Spiegel’s laid back guitar gently interacting with Hendrik Meurkens’ glorious harmonica) and the peppy, horn-drenched tropical party “Island Song,” the ten track collection is not a full-on celebration of that region. It’s as if Spiegel uses the imagery as an invitation to some deeper, thematically heavier experiences of locations that have meant a lot to him.
Those range from the quick paced samba “E. 22nd Street” (penned when the guitarist was living in Brooklyn) to the frenetic hustle and bustle of “The Streets of Milan,” which includes an otherworldly solo by trumpeter Brian Lynch. Though based in Miami now, he also explores his enduring New York state of mind on the sly, darting every which way “Slippery Slope” (an homage to Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood), with the intricate notes of his guitar giving way to bursts of brass and solos by Lynch, trombonist Javier Nero and tenor saxman Tim Armacost.
Later in the set, after he’s slyly paid his dues on the Jimmy Smith-esque “Retribution Blues” and given vocalist Ben Beal a sunny spotlight on the Jobim-esque samba “Inquietude,” he reaches back in his vast memory bank with a tip of his hat to the comparatively laid back vibes of his hometown of L.A. with the mid-tempo meditation “Smooth Move” – a trio focused extravaganza featuring one of Spiegel’s most dynamic interactions with the simmering harmonies of organist Jim Gaslor and the potent drumming of Lucas Apostoleris.