Carlos del Junco

Carlos del Junco - Big Boy

For quite a while now those who had been lucky enough to hear Just Your Fool, Carlos del Junco's first solo album had been hoping for a new release. For my part, even though I liked the above mentioned Live, I felt a little frustrated by the choice of repertoire, too conventional for my tastes, so I was waiting for something more open musically. I'm not disappointed :

Carlos doesn't really have much to prove technically : he has integrated the most advanced playing techniques (overblow, bent octaves, counterpoint, etc.) with Howard Levy's blessing. But where Levy moves into the realms of a world jazz that sometimes a tad 'cerebral' and difficult to grasp, del Junco concentrates on more popular styles of music, amongst which blues, of course, but not limited to that. The great achievement of this album in my opinion is that Carlos has managed to blend the harmonica into musical styles where it is seldom if at all represented : ska, soul, and some hybrid mixes more difficult to categorise. Blues is still present on the album, but those who have heard Carlos' style know that it is anything but classic. The New Orleans flavoured ‘Junco Partner’ is a nice example of that. There is also a nod to Sugar Blue with a cover of Sugar's solo "Another Man Done Gone" that ends up with a train imitation. That's some breathing !

Carlos' only foray into jazz territory is Fats Waller's Jitterbug Waltz, in which Carlos acoustic sound shines. The arrangement is sober and the piece very beautiful. Carlos ends that piece alone playing the harp in an accordion style that is nothing short of astounding.

Another strong poiny of this recording is the fun that seeps through each piece. It's obvious that Carlos and his musicians had the time of their lives and that's very pleasant to hear. The best illustration of this is ‘Heddon Tadpolly Spook’, described in the liner notes as a 'quirky ska hybrid instrumental soundtrack for a Fellini film ?'. It's a real fun piece, very listenable and yet it conceals an impressive technical mastery.

If I had one criticism to make towards ‘Big Boy’, it's that sometimes (fortunately not often) Carlos' technique steps over his musicality and he switches into a demi mode that is probably very impressive live, but doesn't carry through on an album. On ‘Heaven’s where you’ll dwell’, the opening piece, Carlos goes into a break with drummer only playing a few bars in each of the twelve keys (on one diatonic of course). Very impressive, but not very musical...

That being said it's a very minor criticism towards an album that I really enjoy. I can only recommend it if you want to hear what one of the most innovative haro players of today is doing with a diatonic.

Benoit Felten

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