TWO CD REVIEWS IN ONE!!
Lara & Reyes World Jazz (55:22) and Navidad (43:42) Higher Octave Music www.higheroctave.com Sergio Lara and Joe Reyes, an acoustic guitar duo reminiscent of Strunz & Farah, are in good form on their fifth and sixth releases for the Higher Octave label. While there's a certain elevator-ish aspect to tracks like "Nuevo Mundo" and "10 to 6" on World Jazz, the guitars sound crisp and chopsy. The sparse ensembles heard on tracks like "Sandia Fresca" and "La Barranca" are a good fit for the music, and a number of miscellaneous instruments - piccolo, violin, accordion, oud, mandolin - add unexpected colors throughout. "Danielle's Waltz" features just the two guitars alongside the double bass of Eric Revis, a straightahead jazzer who's worked extensively with the likes of Branford Marsalis and Orrin Evans.
Navidad is the duo's take on Christmas songs. This one's a bit more live and direct - just two guitars playing intimate duets, no bass or percussion or any extras at all. Lara & Reyes dispense with the world music vibe and get pretty jazzy instead, swinging energetically on tunes like "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," cultivating a bit of a Doc Watson vibe on "White Christmas," and rocking out on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." There are 18 Christmas tunes in all, ranging from the religious to the secular, and in the hands of Lara & Reyes they all sound remarkably un-corny. In this environment you can hear how good some of these songs really are. Lara's use of mandolin on 10 tracks adds variety. ~David R. Adler
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