The Quarter Century-Plus Wait For Lunar Octet’s Latest Album Was Well Worth It

Courtesy: Summit Records

More than 25 years after it released its debut album Highway Fun, Latin-jazz collective Lunar Octet will return this week with only its second-ever album.  Convergence is scheduled for release Friday through Summit Records.  The 14-song album is a presentation that any fan of the noted genre will enjoy.  That is proven in no small part through the record’s featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The sequencing thereof adds its own appeal to the listening experience here.  It will be examined a little later.  The album’s companion booklet rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the overall listening experience with Lunar Octet’s new album.  All things considered, they make the album a work that any fan of Afro-Latin jazz will find fully enjoyable.

Lunar Octet’s first new album in more than a quarter of a century is a presentation that the group’s established audience base will find just as appealing as those who are new to the group and its work.  That is proven in large part through the album’s featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements are diverse in their sound and stylistic approach throughout the record.  Case in point is the arrangement featured in ‘Mambossa.’  This arrangement blends the group’s familiar Afro-Latin jazz leanings and blends that with a more guitar-driven style a la Carlos Santana to make it a unique composition in its own right.  What is so interesting is here the fully noticeable evolution of the evolution.  It starts off softly with the pairing of the saxophone line, bass, percussion/drums, and subtle guitar.  As the song progresses, more horns are added to the mix, giving the arrangement more energy.  Approximately three minutes in, the Carlos Santa influence comes into the mix, to build on the arrangement even more.  The gradual growth and transitions exhibited throughout the song are so fluid and natural.  It makes for so much enjoyment throughout the song.

The variety within ‘Mambossa’ is just one example of what makes the album’s musical arrangements so crucial to its presentation.  ‘Samba Diabolico’ is another example of the role of the album’s musical content.  The very first thing that comes to mind when one hears or reads the word “Samba” is a typical two-four dance tune complete with agogo bell, horns, and Afro-Latin percussion.  This arrangement is anything but.  There is a trumpet line here, and even a saxophone.  There is even some subtle Afro-Latin percussion added into the mix, but it is not the typical samba work that conjures thoughts of Rio and Carnival.  Rather, the incorporation of the bass line and piano to the mix gives the arrangement here more the feel and sound of something that one might expect to hear playing at a café in Cuba than the boisterous sounds most commonly associated with the samba.

‘Olduvai Gorge’ is another example of the important role that this album’s musical content plays in its presentation.  The Carlos Santana style influence is present once    more here as it opens the five-and-a-half-minute composition.  The seamless fashion in which that element and the composition’s more pure Latin influences move back and forth will impress any listener.  What’s more, the stability in the song’s energy as the composition progresses is just as engaging and entertaining.  When this arrangement, the others noted here and the rest of the album’s arrangements are considered together, the importance of the album’s musical arrangements in whole becomes clear.  That collective content is just part of what makes the album successful.  The sequencing of the album’s musical content builds on the appeal of the arrangements and makes the album even more engaging and entertainment.

Audiences will find through a close listen to the record that its arrangements were sequenced in a fashion that keeps the album’s relatively stable throughout, what with its mostly mid-tempo compositions.  There are however, some break points of sorts thrown in to change things up and keep listeners entertained and engaged.  They come in the form of ‘Oye’ (the shortest of the record’s songs, it clocks in at only 47 seconds), and the even more relaxed ‘Until I Find The Words.’  Other than those moments, the rest of the album keeps its energy moving fluidly from one song to the next.  The stability in the energy delivered through the arrangements also leads to stable pacing from beginning to end.  The result of all of this is that audiences will find enjoyment from this album for its content and the general effect of that content.  Even as much as the content and its effect does for the album, it still is not the last of the album’s most important elements.  The booklet that accompanies the album rounds out its most important elements.

The booklet that is featured in Lunar Octet’s new album is important to examine because of the information that is presented in its liner notes.  The booklet’s liner notes start by giving a brief overview of the band’s history before pointing out the work that the band members put in to unite and work together.  From there, the notes — penned by Michael G. Nastos – briefly state that the songs featured in the album are both new and old works that the band members have developed over the years.  That note, although brief, adds to an appreciation for the album because it shows that this is not just something that the band members tossed together.  Rather it is a presentation that has grown and evolved over time while the band members did their own thing.  Speaking of that, the history section of the liner notes points out clearly that the band’s extended hiatus was fully on positive terms and that there was no animosity at all among the musicians.  That adds even more appreciation for the record.  As if everything noted is not enough, the extensive biographies of each of the group’s members adds its on share of interest.  When everything noted here is considered along with the album’s musical content and its sequencing, the result is a presentation that any Afro-Latin jazz fan will enjoy.

Lunar Octet’s first new album in more than 25 years (and only its second album overall) is a presentation that will impress jazz and Afro-Latin jazz fans alike.  Additionally, it will impress audiences who have waited and wondered for so many years if this group would ever release a new record.  The appeal comes in large part through the album’s featured songs.  As the liner notes point out, the songs are a combination of older material that the band crafted years ago and some more recent material.  It is also diverse in terms of its sound and stylistic approaches.  That in itself makes for reason enough to listen to this record.  The songs’ sequencing does its own share to ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  That is due to the stability in the songs’ energies and the constant change in the sounds and stylistic approaches to the works.  The record’s booklet rounds out its most important elements, adding just enough background to the project to make the listening experience that full.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Convergence.  All things considered, they make the album a presentation that audiences in general will agree was well worth the wait.  Convergence is scheduled for release Friday through Summit Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Lunar Octet’s latest news at:



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