Bill O’Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble play energized Latin Jazz on “Wind Off the Hudson”


A title like “Wind Off the Hudson” does not immediately call Latin jazz to mind. Thus, right from the beginning, listeners have to adjust their expectations for the new album by pianist Bill O’Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble.

“Wind Off the Hudson” is available Aug. 2, 2019. The album details a range of inspiration from classic jazz to classic rock. Each song is brilliant and dizzying in its own way and encourages further listening. Two of the standout tracks on “Wind Off the Hudson” are the title track and “Oye Como Va.”

About Bill O’Connell

O’Connell has been part of New York City’s Latin Jazz movement since the 1970s. A New York City native, O’Connell studied at Ohio’s famed Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he focused on classical piano.

As a bandleader, O’Connell’s work has received critical acclaim. His arranging efforts have made O’Connell popular among soloists.

Even though O’Connell is well-respected as an innovator in Latin Jazz, as evidenced by his work with the Latin Jazz All-Stars, O’Connell is still known for his work in straight ahead jazz.

Aside from his work as a professional musician, O’Connell is also an educator – – he is a faculty member at Rutgers University. He has won “Jazz Writer of the Year” four times from SESAC, the performing rights organization. The Afro Caribbean Ensemble makes their recording debut on “Wind Off the Hudson.”

“Wind Off the Hudson” by Bill O’Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble

The recording begins with the title track. The instrumentation rushes right into the song with a fast-tempo percussion and an energized sway of horns. The motif repeats for a couple minutes, and only slows down for a handful of measures before returning at hyper-speed.

Horns and piano seem to take over the soundscape. But the dizzying speed that never loses its vigor, certainly gets audiences’ attention. Piano and horn showcases shine in the ever-busy instrumentation. The feeling of movement never leaves the piece and it prepares listeners for the gems to come on the recording.

“Oye Como Va” by Bill O’Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble

Without lyrics or electric guitar, the Santana classic comes to life under the control of O’Connell and Afro Caribbean Ensemble.

“Oye Como Va” takes on a slightly different vibe as an instrumental with a varied soundscape. As the horns and percussion develop, the song takes on the sound of “Spill the Wine” by War. When the entire soundscapes slows to the point of near-deconstruction at the end, the song takes on a new kind of artistry and texture.

O’Connell’s new venture with the Afro Caribbean Ensemble seems to be a successful one. The spry rhythms, sustained energy and all-around new twists make “Wind Off the Hudson” a surprisingly enjoyable recording.


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