Tito Carrillo, Urbanessence Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Tito Carrillo is back with his second Origin Records release called Urbanessence. The trumpeter and composer says of the album, “I love the energy of the city, always have. Having been born in Austin, TX, and raised musically in Chicago, I’ve always been drawn to the melting pot, the high-energy pace, the festivals, the food, the diversity of cultures, and, of course, the music. As my career as a performer morphed into a career as a performer/educator, life has taken me out of the city for a number of years. I’ve adjusted for the sake of stability and family, and I wouldn’t change it, but my heart has never left the city. This album draws from my years in Chicago, playing jazz, salsa, Latin Jazz, gospel, blues, funk, and soul, and performing several times at the Chicago Jazz Festival and Hyde Park Jazz Festival, both as a leader and a sideman. These nine originals (plus one non-Tito original by Phil Kocheril) seek to blend and meld my experiences into one language, rather than keep them as separate experiences inside my memory. Through my life lens, Urbanessence is one musical landscape – that I proudly share with you.”
All the energy and influences blend to create a landscape of musical interest in the opening track, “Momentum.” The intro has a beautiful bass line, piano figure, conga, and drum pattern. The rhythm section is Ben Lewis, piano; Clark Sommers, bass; Jay Sawyer, drums and cymbals; and Victor Gonzalez, Jr., congas. Joining Carrillo on the frontline is tenor and soprano saxophonist Troy Roberts. Carrillo and Roberts beautifully play the melody. Carrillo’s solo is a balanced affair of melodic moments and fluid flurries of notes. His tone is warm, focused, and he presents with an excellent time feel.
For moments of beautiful soloing, navigate to “Fly by Night.” After the well-written melody, the rhythm section creates an up-tempo swing feel. Carrillo’s soloing digs into the swing feel as he joyously spins out beautiful lines from his trumpet. Roberts joins Carrillo to transition to his solo, the two musicians listening and interacting with energy and respect. Roberts is an unstoppable force on the saxophone, playing beautifully and eventually with just Sawyer until the bass and piano rejoin to push the power even higher.
Urbanessence is a beautiful album filled with excellent writing and playing. Carrillo’s musical understanding and vision as a bandleader can be felt throughout Urbanessence. Each member is given the space to shine and create an integral part of the ensemble unit. The result is a magical project that delivers many textures, styles, feels, and contagious rhythms for our listening enjoyment.