Critics and fans alike love Los Más Valientes! Check out what the press is saying...
Los Mas Valientes is a Latin jazz band that looks and sounds like the best of New York City. Like the city, this live and lively performance is brimming with spirit and joy, humor and wit, passion and life, as it abounds with idiomatic solos by the beautiful mosaic of musical director-flutist Jessica Valiente, trombonist Rick Faulkner, alto saxophonist Debra Kreisberg, and pianist Chiemi Nakai.
Recorded at a live concert performance at Makor (a renowned midtown club in New York City), this is Los Más Valientes’ fourth recording, which is a compilation of their three previous studio recordings, plus three new unrecorded tracks.
Even though this new production was recorded back in December 2005, it is still fresh and exciting. It hasn’t lost the original spirit and lively kick throughout these years. Whatever the reason for the delay in releasing it, the waiting was worthwhile. It was a terrific concert where the band sounds very tight and in tune, delivering at the best of their abilities. Kudos to Steve Siegel for a great job with the live sound engineering, and to David Merrill for the final mixing and engineering.
This is one of those CDs the listener fully enjoys, non-stop, from beginning to end. The variety of rhythms and the execution are outstanding. Rumba, guagancó, charanga, mambo, guaracha, bossa nova, son montuno, timba, songo, and even Dominican bachata and Yiddish music (in a sophisticated way) get thrown in the mix. Los Más Valientes take all these rhythms and combine them in a delightful concoction, producing a signature Latin jazz sound that keeps you on your toes the whole concert.
Among my favorites tracks: the introductory killer “Se Formó el Rumbón,” a composition that fuses rumba, guaguancó, charanga and guaracha. “Spain” (from Chick Corea), in a hip guaguancó arrangement. “Mambo Out,” a superb performance that I see as a beautiful tribute from Los Más Valientes to maestro Tito Puente. It’s a true celebration to the best mambo tradition. “Simon Says Jump,” a song you can’t stop listening to again and again is full of energy and infectious rhythm. “Songo Valiente” is a fitting closing song to the concert, constructed with complex Caribbean polyrhythms.
The release of Titere Fué (Laughing Buddha Records), Jessica Valiente y Los Mas Valientes' third release, was celebrated this past March 21st at the Manhattan club called The Living Room, with various special guests, such as singer/songwriter Genevieve Gazon, vocalists Stephanie and Arielle Rosario, and poet and author Pazcual Villaronga.
The CD contains 10 tracks, including eight original compositions written by flutist/percussionist/bandleader Valiente, her trombonist husband Rick Faulkner, timbalero/drummer Victor Rendón , and vocalist Gazón (co-composer with Valiente and Faulkner of the title track).
"We're very excited to finally see this disc hit the streets -- it was a very long time coming!" says Valiente. "I took time to have the girls (daughters Maggie and Lisa), and with small children, it's very hard to work on a project like this." Valiente frequently jokes that it took less time to produce two children than to produce her latest CD.
"We have some exciting guest artists and collaborators on this project, and some musical tributes to artists and others who have inspired us," she continues. "And as usual, we've incorporated a lot of rhythmic and stylistic variety -- something we love to do and that has been a priority on all of our projects."
Los Mas Valientes' players are incredibly seasoned and versatile. All of their previous productions (Los Mas Valientes, Gira Caribeña/Caribbean Journey) and their latest, have something to please everyone. My personal picks from Titere Fué are the title track, Steak Sauce (dedicated to the Latin jazz crowd at the Bronx's Willie's Steakhouse), Noro Morales's Maria Cervantes (based on Tito Puente's arrangement), Faulkner's red hot descarga Yasuyo, Victor and Willie, and his answer to Mario Bauza's Mambo Inn: Mambo Out, finished the day before Puente's passing, and, as Valiente says, dedicated to Puente and all the great mambo kings.
Here is an unexpected delight from a group that deserves more attention. Formed in 1995 by Jessica Valiente, Anna Milat-Meyer, and Yasuyo Kimura, Los Mas Valientes is an eight-piece ensemble, described by Cadence Magazine as "a tightly knit band of Latin music professionals [that] plays the music of Latin America with dedication and a true understanding of its pulse." The group's potential was clearly demonstrated by their debut album, Los Mas Valientes, which was listed it as one of the 10 best albums of 1999 by Latin Beat Magazine. Titere Fué , their third release, suggests that this was no fluke.
It has been a long time in the making. The group's leader, flutist Jessica Valiente, has had her hands full juggling several priorities--raising a family and working on a DMA in performance at C.U.N.Y. She likes to joke that it has taken her longer to produce this CD than to produce two children! But it is finally done, and it follows in the same vein as the earlier recordings. The writing, which is mainly by Valiente and her husband, trombonist Rick Falkner, adroitly exploits the group's colors and textures, and draws on a range of different Latin-American forms: mambo, salsa, charanga, descarga, danzon, etc. (And what a nice idea to label each song's form next to its title in the notes.) The ensemble executes the charts with aplomb, driven by the percussion-rich rhythm section and anchored by Chiemi Nakai's keyboard work. And the soloists give a good account of themselves; Faulkner is a strong trombonist in the tradition of Jimmy Bosche, Kreisberg has a highly personal saxophone style with a sound that suggests some classical training, and Valiente, although she downplays her role as a soloist, has a fresh approach to the flute that is very appealing.
She has some competition; there are some wonderful Latin jazz artists in New York, including several excellent flutists--Dave Valentin, Andrea Brachfeld, Carlos Jimenez...Valiente stands out from all these through conception rather than raw technique. That she has technique I can attest, having attended her DMA recital, where she performed a program of solo flute literature from Tellemann to Paquito de Rivera. But she also has a wealth of knowledge about both jazz and Latin forms which she has applied both to the development of the group sound and to her role in it. Steeped in the charanga tradition, with its emphasis on a flute-led ensemble, her solo role is closer to this Cuban form than to a jazz orientation. But it works beautifully. When she does feature herself, as on "Petite Fleur" and "Maria Cervantes," she scores with simplicity and directness.
Overall, Jessica Valientes is another artist with a strong local following but some way from national exposure. If you enjoy Latin music, however, you would do well to check out Los Mas Valientes
Los Mas Valientes may play some of the hottest salsa music around, but don't call the group a salsa band. Or a Latino dance band, either.
"We have a focus on improvisation, and we do love playing dance music when the opportunity arises, but you really have to call us Latin jazz," bandleader Jessica Valiente said recently while on break from her teaching duties at Mercy College's Bronx campus.
Valiente is a flautist of the first rank, and performs endlessly inventive solos. The same is true for Rick Faulkner, her trombone-playing husband. A veteran of ska, jazz and Latin jazz, he teaches music at Hunter College in Manhattan.
Although all members of the octet pitch in, the husband-wife combination drives the band stylistically. The Valientes' other horn player, clarinetist-saxophonist Debra Kreisberg, helps with soloing and song writing.
The band's recorded material chooses from the styles of several countries and Afro-Caribbean traditions. Their self-titled first record was released in 1999 by the Laughing Buddha label. Their first hit was "Simon Says Jump." They play it intensely, with breathless abandon.
The second CD, "Gira Caribeña" (Caribbean Journey, 2001), continued with varied musical forms, including "Timba-Son," another salsa radio station hit for the group.
Timba, a kind of salsa with hip-hop and funk influences, Valiente says, "is the latest sound to come from Cuba. There's a lot of controversy about it here -- a lot of old-school salsa musicians don't really like it, but there's room for holding onto tradition and there's also room to try what's new."
Valiente's mother is Dominican, and so Gira Caribeña also includes a merengue (the fast 2-4 dance form from the Dominican Republic) for famous Dominican slugger Sammy Sosa, "66 (for Sammy Sosa)."
Another track, "Pa'Yasu," is propelled by hypnotic piano, clarinet, Afro-Cuban percussion, and a shivering, masterful solo by guest Miri Ben-Ari, a friend of Valiente, while "Vieques/Que Dolor y Que Pena" protests the U.S. Navy's bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island.
"Vieques means a lot ot us. At about the time that people were beginning to know about Vieques, I became involved with Vieques Libre and spoke about the Vieques situation at almost every gig. Probably on every CD, there will be something about the latest political cause that I'm championing," she said with a laugh.
The sounds of Latin Jazz are smokin’ with this fantastic new release from Los Mas Valientes, Gira Caribeña. This band possesses a unique style and sound that sets them apart from many. Most of the material on the recording is original and it is hot!
Jessica Valiente is the flutist and leader of this swinging and energetic group. She is accompanied by an exceptional cast of musicians who are having fun with this great music. Debra Kreisberg (alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet) is solid throughout and her sound on the horn is superb. I look forward to hearing more from her on future recordings. Rick Faulkner (trombone) plays with a first rate sound. On piano, William Paul Rodriguez keeps the groove right on! His vocal talents are highlighted on the classic tune, "Obsesión," written by Pedro Flores. A new talent on congas, Yasuyo Kimura plays with the style of a highly seasoned and creative conguera. The well-respected Victor Rendón is featured here on timbales and traps. This man is one out-of-sight percussionist. Willie Serrano Rivera is heard here on bongos, cowbell, and various percussion, and sounds good. The bass duty is handled nicely by Anna Milat-Meyer.
There are also nice touches added by invited guest artists Ray Vega (trumpet); check out his solo on the songo-blues tune "I Don’t Think So"-- very groovy. Mir Ben Ari on violin is heard on "Pa’Yasú."
You will hear for yourself that this fine ensemble has the talent to go to the top of the Latin jazz scene in a hurry. When I hear their music, including their first self-titled release, I hear touches of Mongo Santamaria, Cal Tjader, Willie Bobo, Poncho Sanchez and, of course, the great Tito Puente. Their influences are there, yet this sweet sounding band has created its own Latin jazz groove. If you are not convinced, check out the jazzy bossa nova, "Enquanto Voçê Estava Aquí." Written by Debra Kreisberg, she leads this one with a fine effort, along with Jessica on flute. Rick Faulkner plays a pretty solo here as well on trombone. The arrangement moves and is tight. I also enjoyed the opening explosive tune by Victor Rendón, "Timba-Són," that is so full of power and finesse. If you want to mellow out the mood, let the soft bolero "You’ll Never Know" soothe your soul. This is an absolutely gorgeous tune! Just what you need to complement a fine chilled glass of wine. Being a big baseball fan, I also dug the tune dedicated to Sammy Sosa, "66 (For Sammy Sosa)." Just like Sammy, this one is full of flavor, and is mighty just like Sammy’s swing!
Jessica Valiente’s composition of "Ska-Cha" will delight all of us aficionados of the chachachá . Perfect for some serious dancing or just some serious kicking back. "Pa’Yasu" is another grooving tune which highlights the great sound of Jessica on flute. This is some serious Latin jazz.
To close out this recording the group performs the highly rhythmic mozambique, "Foxy’s on the Dance Floor," which allows the group to groove straight ahead. Listen to the tremendous solos. This tune reminds me of the great Mongo Santamaria and the sound his Latin jazz band had in the mid-seventies. I wish this recording could go on and on, and you will too.
Los Mas Valientes
son muy calientes...! Let them take you along for the ride on the Caribbean Journey.
This recording gets a solid 5-conga rating...!
Keep enjoying Latin Jazz
When you listen to Jessica Valiente y Los mas Valientes' Caribbean Journey/Gira Caribeña you are transformed and taken on a marvelous musical voyage. Los Mas Valientes have given you the opportunity to savor a musical smorgasbord of merengue, reggae-cha, mambo, bossa nova, songo blues, bomba, salsa and Mozambique. It is all a very nice variety of the musical forms of the Caribbean.
The group is led by flautist Jessica Valiente. Other members are her trombonist husband Rick Faulkner, Willie Rodriguez on piano, Anna Milat-Meyer on electric and acoustic bass, Debra Kreisberg on alto saxophone, Victor Rendon on timbales, Yasuyo Kimura on congas, and Willie Serrano on bongo. They are joined by invited guests Ray Vega on trumpet, Miri Ben Ari on violin, Carolos "Tato" Torres with Yerba Buena, Julio Cesar del Peru, and Anibal "Tito" Rivera on coros.
The CD has some outstanding highlights. Victor Rendon's "Timba-Son" (which debuted in the Top Ten of Latin Beat Magazine: #6 in Los Angeles, #8 in San Francisco, and #6 in New York) is a moving treat, especially the percussive energetic exchange between him and his wife, Yasuyo Kimura. At the writing of this review, "Timba-Son" was still in the top ten in New York. Also debuting in the #10 spot in New York and #16 in Miami was the group's version of Pedro Flores's "Obsesion," featuring Mr. William Paul Rodriguez on vocal.
Saxophonist Debra Kreisberg's soulful and passionate playing on "You'll Never Know" by Rick Faulkner is one of my favorites. Jessica's own creation, "I Don't Think So," a songo blues, really moves the imagination on the journey and makes you THINK SO! Her swinging "Pa'Yasu," a klezmaranga, highlights the talents of Yasuyo Kimura on congas and Miri Ben Ari on violin. I really thought that "Vieques," a bomba, is hard-hitting and appropriate. I was happy to see a group not afraid to tackle something political that is on the minds of many Puerto Ricans. Bravo to all!
All in all, Jessica Valiente y Los Mas Valientes' Caribbean Journey/Gira Caribeña is a voyage you will find yourself taking over and over again, whether at home, in the car or on the dance floor!
Flutist Jessica Valiente and Los Mas Valientes have released their second production, Caribbean Journey/Gira Caribeña on the Laughing Buddha label. The release is refreshing in the sense that it offers real versatility, exploring different musical forms of the Caribbeanand beyond. One of the tracks, "Pa'Yasu," is labeled "klezmaranga"! Other styles include timba, songo-blues, bossa nova, salsa, bomba, merengue, reggae-cha and Mozambique. Members of the band composed most of the material. Pedro Flores's "Obsesion," arranged by Valiente and her husband, trombonist Rick Faulkner, has proven to be very popular with radio listeners. The number features quality piano work by William Paul Rodriguez, who also sings. Invited guests include violinist Miri Ben Ari, who plays on "Pa'Yasu," trumpeter Ray Vega, and New York-based bomba and plena group Yerba Buena with vocalist/leader Carlos "Tato" Torres.
In addition to Valiente, Faulkner and Rodriguez, members of Los Mas Valientes include alto/tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Debra Kreisberg, bassist Anna Milat-Meyer, conguera Yasuyo Kimura, timbalero Victor Rendon, and bongocero Willie Serrano Rivera.
Valiente and her band play a spirited brand of Latin music in its various forms on Los Mas Valientes, including the mambo, guajira, bembe, bossa nova, descarga, bugalu, samba, cha-cha-cha, and songo. Each selection presents a differenet facet of the rhythmn-based music of South America and the Caribbean, displaying the richness and diversity of the sounds from this multi-cultural region. Valiente directs the way on flute, her main instrument that is either the feature of a tune or an ensemble element that blends into the group's full-bodied sound. The program consists of original compositions, four of which are from Valiente and the other five from band members Faulkner, Kreisberg, and Osorio. When the combined ensemble of reeds and brass collide with the rhythm generators, a highly motivic music results. While the selections are fully arranged and structured to highlight their cultural origin, the set allows for segments of improvised vitality. Valiente, Kreisberg and Faulkner take turns with short solos or round-robin exchanges while the band pounds out a solid beat. Kreisberg's zippy alto solo combined with Faulkner's smooth trombone spurts on "So Long Samba" is a fine example of the sustained pace produced by this unit.
The drivers of this group are the three percussionists. With Kimura on congas, Osorio on timbales, and Rivera on bongo/cencerro, cajon or shekere, a steady stream of pulsation flows and unites with the current generated by the others. Pianist Rodriguez also displays a highly rhythmic style that keeps the beat going. Valiente has wound together a tightly knit band of Latin music professionals. Los Mas Valientes plays the music of Latin America with dedication and a true understanding of its pulse.
Valiente, Kimura and Milat-Meyer formed this band after meeting during a series of New York salsa workshops back in 1995. Evidently one of the criteria for joining their octet-to-be was the ability to compose with great color, since all nine of these impressive cuts were written by band members. Each piece represents a different Latin rhythmic style (mambo, descarga, songo, et cetera) though even on the Brazilian bossa nova, the Cuban influence definitely reigns. They're a tight and engaging ensemble, partly due to the equal balance between the three who solo on reeds, brass and such, and the same number of percussionists, who drive the bnad with intricacy as well. Not a weak spot on the album