2011 / Saulito Music
Review by Michael Debbage
It has been 3 years since Russ Hewitt put Texas on the Nuevo Flamenco musical map with his impressive debut. With his underlying rock influences, it was a very interesting and entertaining twist on the genre, but Hewitt was now faced with the task of not only following up on a strong debut but also avoiding the sophomore jinx. A complete listen to Alma Vieja will not only squelch those fears but also support the theory that we have a star in the making.
While the album opens with the progressive and challenging “Pelourinho” it remains to be seen whether this is a wise way to introduce us to Alma Vieja, however, one cannot accuse Hewitt of taking the easy way out. But sequence issue aside press on to the next track “Samba Samba” and you will quickly discover that the song is fully qualified to meet its title definition which is a double helping of lively, rhythmical dance of Brazilian origin. Featuring Ivan Torres on drums, it is an exotic, enthusiastic and energizing song that will whisk you out of your seat desiring you to dance to the music.
Hewitt quickly follows this up with probably his most commercial effort to date courtesy of “Pacific Sunrise” focusing more on his smooth jazz and funky guitar playing as he combines flawlessly with Michael Lington on saxophone. According to the Hewitt website it is hitting multiple play lists and rightfully so and given the right exposure it should be in heavy rotation on the Smooth Jazz Wave stations. Other standout tracks include the mellow but passionate “Gabriela Mi Corazon”, “Las Cruces” and the closer “Solade” that glides on an ocean of “musical waves” of melodic sensibilities. The above accessible tracks are interwoven with the more challenging compositions such as the previously mentioned opening track, the progressive “Dhanyavad” featuring Charlie Bisharat on violin and “Moonlake Drive”. The latter features a terrific integration of challenging verses with a breakout chorus with significant runs from bass player Bob Parr countered with Hewitt’s fluid playing.
Hewitt continues to fuse his Nuevo Flamenco style with Latin and jazz themes with a very light touch of underlying rock and roll attitude making his musical style unique and different to that of his peers. Having recently attended one his outstanding lively concerts with a full band, it is very clear that Hewitt is not limited to studio tricks and has complete control of his destiny commanding not only the studio but the stage. Alma Vieja is further evidence to fully support the presence of a rising star
September 2, 2011