|Funk tango? Sounds like a bad idea. But this new album from the Cuban-born alto saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera works breezily, shrugging off its own title. There are intimations of tango on the album, most obviously in “Revirado,” the token Astor Piazzolla song. But even on the title track, composed by the pianist Alon Yavnai, funk is a distant idea. (The mere presence of an electric bass doesn’t do it.)
What matters is that Mr. D’Rivera sounds genuinely compelled by the music, and by his ensemble, a so-called quintet that generally accommodates six members. Mr. Yavnai is among the sharp young musicians on hand; so is the Argentine trumpeter Diego Urcola, who doubles on valve trombone and contributes “Final Waltz,” the album’s most wistful tune. The other sideman-composers in the ranks are the pianist Edward Simon, the bassist Oscar Stagnaro and the drummer Mark Walker, with at least one tune apiece.
Mr. D’Rivera plays with extroverted vigor throughout the album, sounding especially inspired whenever his band tumbles into a knotty Afro-Caribbean groove, which is often. His crisp rapport with Mr. Urcola recalls a bebop frontline, a point of reference that he seems eager to invoke: the album ends with “Giant Steps,” the John Coltrane workout, in an arrangement that borrows a host of rhythmic conventions. Not funk or tango, though, which is just as well.
NATE CHINEN, The New York Times, May 2007