Jazz Review : New Spirit In Old Be-bop For Gillespie

April 21, 1987|LEONARD FEATHER

“Any visit to town by Dizzy Gillespie is an occasion as rare and welcome as a rainbow, but his weekend at the Catalina Restaurant was something doubly special, as the capacity crowds clearly recognized.

Of the 1986 band, only bassist John Lee remains. There are, however, two returnees from earlier years: Guitarist Ed Cherry is back, replacing the pianist and adding a special warmth to the rhythm blend, and Ignacio Berroa, a powerful Cuban percussionist, is on hand again, bringing with him a dynamism that was urgently needed.



Jazz Review : Gillespie in Greater Command Than Ever

January 26, 1988|LEONARD FEATHER

“Ignacio Berroa may be the strongest and most versatile drummer Gillespie has hired in years.”




Published: January 12, 2001

(Page 3 of 5)

“JAZZTIMES SUPERBAND, GONZALO RUBALCABA TRIO, Blue Note, 131 West Third Street, Greenwich Village, (212) 475-8592. The super-band features some of the hard-hitting sidemen of the 1970’s and 80’s: Randy Brecker, Bob Berg, Joey de Francesco and Dennis Chambers. But if you’re in search of art, check out the other half of this double bill: the trio led by Mr. Rubalcaba, the Cuban pianist, who is easily on the short list of the best pianists in the world. He is a hyperarticulate speed demon, but also capable of playing otherworldly, nearly motionless music; his last album, ”Inner Voyage” (Blue Note/Capitol), drew heavily on that side. And lately he has been using the excellent drummer Ignacio Berroa, who is strangely undervalued.”






Published: June 4, 2006

Ignacio Berroa

If you want to understand the new Latin jazz — which is one of the almost measurably vital things going on now in jazz — you might as well start with the drummers. This makes Ignacio Berroa quite important. Mr. Berroa left Cuba for the United States in 1980, finding work with Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente and many others. His impressive new record, “Codes” (Blue Note), with a distinct arrangement idea on every track, lays out different kinds of rhythmic feel along a vast spectrum. It features the pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba — he is also the producer — and some of the music proceeds in ways you might associate with him: slow and nearly classical, or hard-slapping, metrically tricky funk. But what makes Mr. Berroa stand out among other Cuban drummers is how deeply he has also mastered the looser feel of American jazz drumming. He proves it with his playing on “Realidad y Fantasia,” a remarkable type of generous ballad-swing, made with brushes, that may be a dying art.


All About Jazz


Senior Contributor – Since 1997

Jim Santella has been contributing CD reviews, concert reviews and DVD reviews to AAJ since 1997. His work has also appeared in Southland Blues, The L.A. Jazz Scene, and Cadence Magazine.

Published: May 12, 2006

Ignacio Berroa: Codes (2006)

Record Label: Blue Note

Ignacio Berroa spreads contemporary Latin jazz before him everywhere he goes. It’s the music of Dizzy Gillespie, the music of Mario Bauza, and the music of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, David Sánchez, Ed Simon, John Patitucci, and the other members of Berroa’s band.

Along with a vibrant Latin jazz rhythm and accented melodies, the ensemble adds invigorating solos to its successful recipe. Berroa and his rhythm mates hold down the group’s foundation while two superb saxophonists and two creative pianists stretch the limits of their range.

What are the Codes that Berroa has chosen to express by his album’s title?

That’s easy. He’s surely referring to the universal language. His music reflects the traditional music of Cuba and Africa, the big band music of Dizzy Gillespie, the Brazilian folk essence of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and the modern jazz of Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter, as well as the contemporary freshness that exists all over the club, festival and concert circuit today. Jazz is a coded language, and Berroa’s ensemble communicates in that medium fluently.

La Comparsa and “Joao Su Merced dig down for a traditional look at the roots of Latin jazz. “Matrix finds the ensemble flowing with a sound that is very much of today. Pinocchio also presents a contemporary look at the heightened spirits of Latin jazz, while “Partido Alto and “Realidad y Fantasia flow smoothly with the kind of ballad qualities that remain timeless.

Berroa closes with a lovely bolero that features Sánchez, Simon and Patitucci in a musical conversation that warms the heart. Throughout his session, the veteran drummer shares the spotlight and propels his stellar ensemble with the use of a language that they all understand fluently: jazz.

Track Listing: Matrix; Joao Su Merced; La Comparsa; Partido Alto; Realidad y Fantasia; Pinocchio; Woody‘n You; Inutil Paissagem.

Personnel: Ignacio Berroa: drums; Felipe Lamoglia: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; David Sánchez: tenor saxophone; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: synthesizers, acoustic piano; Ed Simon: acoustic piano; John Patitucci: acoustic bass; Armando Gola: acoustic bass, electric bass; Philbert Armenteros: vocals, percussion; Santiago Nani, Jorge Iglesias: percussion; Giovanni Hildalgo: congas.






Published: February 20, 2010

Ignacio Berroa
Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California
January 31, 2010

Sometimes you think you’ve heard it all, but then something comes along to let you know that there is even more. This was clearly the case on January 31, when Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa and his quartet, consisting of Los Angeles-based Ben Wendel on sax, Otmaro Ruiz from Venezuela on piano and Mexico-based Rene Camacho on acoustic bass. Dizzy Gillespie best defined Ignacio as “the only Latin drummer in the world, in the history of American music, that intimately knows both worlds—his native Afro-Cuban music as well as jazz.” The quartet had been advertised as a Latin jazz quartet, and for those of us who did not know Ignacio’s breadth, we expected the usual—congas, heavy on percussion and that Latin beat. Surprisingly, there was almost none of that style. Instead, the quartet rose to the occasion by giving us one of the most impressive straight-ahead jazz concerts laced with bits of Latin to grace the Douglas Beach House in a long time.


With the opening number, “Matrix” from his Grammy-nominated album Codes (Blue Note, 2006), it immediately became obvious that Berroa was the master of his trap set and knew its place within the overall band. At first, he clicked out a rhythm on the rim of his snare drum, giving the tune a Latin flavor before morphing into straight-ahead, high-energy jazz, which was bolstered by Ruiz on piano and Camacho on bass. As the tune developed, Wendel ran through the notes, ripping up and down, pumping his big tenor sax, obviously consumed by the music. All the while, Ignacio’s drums could be heard laying down the grove in the background, holding everything else in place. At times Berroa brought to light his drum’s overtones, adding significance to the music.

By the time the fourth tune, “Obsession,” came on, the band had warmed up to both the music and the audience. This tune had more of an overall Latin beat to it than earlier numbers. Camacho and his bass were featured on this one, and he took it away with a singular intensity that filled the venue. Right alongside of him was Wendel on soprano sax; the two played back and forth with each other. At places during the performance, Ruiz ran up and down the keyboard, and it felt as though he made the piano sparkle.

When Berroa concluded the first set of the evening, the audience gave his band an extraordinarily rare standing ovation. Long-time jazz photographer Peter L. Buranzon said, “I was … impressed with the music and the talent of all the players. There are many great drummers out there, but he blew me away with his fluidity and style—never overpowering, never too loud and very sympathetic, a true master that I am grateful to have seen.” His sentiments were shared by many. Linda Goetz, who co-produces the concerts at the Douglas Beach House, said, “It was one of those moments that you hope for in a live show. I think Pete [Douglas] agreed when I reminded him of a quote of his that I’ll paraphrase: Maybe presenting live music is an addiction—always hoping for that next rush of ‘it doesn’t get any better than this’ and being able to share it with an audience that also ‘gets it.” For me, it was one of those moments, making it all worthwhile.”

In the second set, the music took the audience up another notch in their appreciation of the quartet and Berroa. On that Sunday, we were treated to an earful of beautiful, stirringly performed jazz the way it’s supposed to be played. The audience rose to their feet at the final note of “Woodyn’ You,” which is also from Codes. The ovation was nothing less than heartfelt gratitude from all.