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Album Review

Diego Rivera, a young and experienced saxophonist, is one of the instructors at Michigan State University, working with bassist Rodney Whitaker as a member of the M.S.U. Professors of Jazz ensemble. On this, his debut recording as a leader, it's clear from his sound on tenor that he has listened to his fair share of Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and Branford Marsalis. His technique is solid, as is his tone. Rivera prefers meaty, upbeat, modern post-bop fare, demonstrated on the title track, "Grover St." and "Morena." There's nothing that sets him apart as distinctive, but these are all compositions he has written. At the very least, he's attempting to drive down a well-worn path while adding his own road markers along the way. Switching to soprano sax, there's a shortie (1:30) and reprise of a good groove blues swinger "Ice and Smoke," and arresting stop-start elements during "Beggar's Bagger." The most interesting selection "The Rose Window" shifts from balladic to upbeat and back, showing a more animated, varied tenor voice. Throughout, pianist John Nam displays a deft listening ear and sensitive accompaniment, especially on the ballads, most notably "The Unsaid." "Boogaloo to You" is fronted by an expected Latin tinge, it's more Brazilian sensual than funky danceable. The brightest moments, and supple support, are provided by the excellent young drummer Lawrence Leathers, a native of Lansing and recent transplant to the Kansas City/St. Louis area. Overall a good effort, not earth shattering compositionally, but holding promise for the future, perhaps with another horn to joust with. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Hercules, Diego Rivera
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