Jun 7, 2023
If you think Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s remarkable, 1960 interpretation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet, The Nutcracker, is the final jazz word on the popular orchestral work, think again. Performed by drummer/leader Joe McCarthy’s New York Afro Bop Alliance Big Band, The Pan American Nutcracker Suite is a distinctly different take on the famous score, integrating the polyrhythms and distinctive percussion from across the world, most notably McCarthy’s playground of choice, Latin America
The New York Afro Bop Alliance Big Band includes some of the finest players in jazz. Session conductor Vince Norman led Nick Marchione, John Chudoba, Brandon Lee, and Alex Norris, trumpets; followed by Andrew Gould, lead alto saxophone; Alejandro Aviles, alto saxophone; Ben Kono and Luis Hernandez, tenor saxophones; and Frank Basile, baritone saxophone. Mark Patterson, Ryan Keberle, and John Yao played trombones, James Borowski, bass trombone. McCarthy, of course, handled drums, while directing the rhythm section of Luis Perdomo, piano; Vinny Valentino, guitar; Boris Kozlov, bass; and Samuel Torres, percussion.
Downbeat Magazine hailed Joe McCarthy, writing “The Afro-Bop Alliance Big Band, captained by drummer Joe McCarthy, occupies a singular spot in the timeline of Afro-Cuban ensembles, at once a torchbearer of the genre’s storied history and also one of its fiercest innovators." Nine McCarthy-led recordings preceded The Pan American Nutcracker Suite, including Caribbean Jazz Project/Afro Bop Alliance featuring Dave Samuels, winner of the Latin Jazz Album Grammy of 2008. The album was also nominated in the Latin Jazz category at the 2009 Grammy Awards.
Podcast 949 takes us into the thought process behind the innovative arrangements to the ubiquitous holiday sounds,.