John Roberts | Hip shakin’ tunes on Soul y Pimienta

Crackerjack new CD by Billings vocalist and trombonist “gets the listener moving"

New Albums
John Roberts releases new album of hip-shaken' dance tunes.
John Roberts releases new album of hip-shaken’ dance tunes.

Billings trombonist-vocalist and MSU-Billings music instructor John Roberts has put out a crackerjack new CD that “gets the listener moving,” his prime objective for making music. His captivating sound features dance music styles such as salsa, Cuban son, Congolese soukous, and soulful jazz. The resulting concoction is a spicy brew of hip-shakin’ dance tunes.

Roberts spent many years performing internationally with purveyors of said grooves, and his aim here was to get Montana musicians together with players from Argentina, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Congo, and L.A. Nineteen guests appear on the CD, including international stars like vocalist Ricardo Lemvo, trumpeter Stephen Giraldo, and guitarist Huit Kilos. Bass, tenor sax, violin (Trevor Krieger), drums, campana (cowbell), congas, bongos, and other Latin percussion instruments layer the sound. Roberts adds keys and bass in some spots as well, and various folks contribute background harmonies (coros).

Of the seven cuts, Roberts wrote five; the other two are Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Agua de Beber” and George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Jobim’s bossa nova piece gets the jazzy, syncopated salsa treatment. Baritone-voiced Roberts sings in Portuguese, a tongue that demands a relaxed and whispery sibilance. Giraldo offers a scintillating trumpet break, practically vaporizing the paint on the instrument.

Lemvo sings on the last part of Roberts’s Congo-infused “Bimwela”; the rockin’ rhythm provided by drummer Sandie Castañeda lays the groundwork for a liquid and dynamic guitar solo from Kilos. His jumpin’ guitar riffs are contagious.

The sleepy Afro-Cuban “Pajarita” finds Roberts belting out powerful trombone licks, bluesy and guttural within a laid-back, jazzy framework. And “Nos Boogalooremos” is dreamy and swaying, with a slow R&B feel; trombone and guitar (Alex Nauman) play a rockin’ interlude.

If you can’t tell by now, this is a great album, and Grammy material to boot. Get ahold of it and prepare to dance!

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– Mariss McTucker