El Duelo

SSC4560 2020-09-18

Track List

El Duelo - 5:55
Tango Azul - 4:48
Una Muy Bonita - 6:12
La Yumba / Caravan - 3:22
Pekin - 4:42
The Natural - 5:33
Buenos Aires - 5:03
Foxy Trot - 4:39
I Know, Don’t Know How - 5:08
Libertango - 6:46
Sacajawea (Theme) - 4:54
Leyenda - 5:02
Con Alma - 4:53
Stablemates - 5:03
Bye-Ya - 5:10


Diego Urcola - trumpet - fluegelhorn
Paquito D'Rivera - alto saxophone, clarinet
Eric Doob - drums
Hamishi Smith - bass

Specific reasons led to piano-less quartet becoming a vehicle for the more explorative jazz practitioners of the 1950s and 1960s, namely, directness of group sound and the increased interplay between ensemble members. Subtracting the piano from the typical jazz combo made it imperative that the musicians expand their roles to cover harmonic information lost. In doing so, the performers had to remain engaged and responsive, immediately amplifying their performance.

Trumpeter Diego Urcola has proven to be a player of incredible range and dexterity throughout his career, a large part of it playing alongside Paquito D’Rivera in the legendary saxophonist/clarinetist’s various eclectic projects. On Urcola’s new recording, El Duelo, the trumpeter recruits D’Rivera to join him in a very rare, and exposed, playing scenario, the piano-less quartet.

Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Urcola has been a part of the New York City jazz scene since the 1990s. His work with D’Rivera, Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos, Enrico Pieranunzi, and as a leader has been celebrated by many, even garnering him a Grammy nomination for his album, Soundances.

Urcola’s almost thirty-year relationship with D’Rivera, one of jazz music’s true virtuosos, has been extremely valuable. The diverse projects and performance schedules have allowed the two musicians a deep intimacy in their musical partnership. Urcola’s goal on El Duelo is to feature the more uncompromised, freer side of D’Rivera’s improvisational abilities, which are rarely heard on his own recordings.

It was during a regular visit to Uruguay’s Punta Del Este Jazz Festival that Urcola was asked to present a musical tribute to the revered Gerry Mulligan Quartet that featured Chet Baker. During the quartet’s performance, Urcola invited D’Rivera to the stage, and the idea of recording in a piano-less quartet was cemented by the resounding performance.

Argentinean transplant and audio engineer Luis Bacque had long been encouraging Urcola to find a way to record with D’Rivera on one of the trumpeter’s own projects and, once Urcola was able to present the idea, Bacque produced and recorded their meeting in his fantastic home studio in New Jersey.

From the work of Mulligan to Ornette Coleman, quartets presented in this fashion have always relied on strong rhythm duos of bass and drums. The drum chair was filled by the fantastic Eric Doob, D’Rivera’s regular drummer for years and a player whose study of South and Latin American rhythms made him a perfect choice in this situation. New Zealand born Hamish Smith impressed D’Rivera during a teaching engagement at the Manhattan School of Music, where the young bassist continues to study. Urcola brought him in for the quartet’s initial Small’s Jazz Club performance (Smith’s club debut) and was impressed enough to bring him in for the recording (Smith’s recording debut).

Urcola was especially interested in capturing the ensemble with a contemporary sound, which Bacque was able to do expertly, making this compact ensemble sound driving and intense. The pieces that Urcola arranged for the group show the trumpeter’s diverse range of musical interests but also his fantastic ability to consider the ensemble by focusing on group counterpoint between the three melodic voices and providing strong written bass parts to ensure that the movement of the pieces really grooved.