Downbeat Magazine Review

Doug Beavers—trombonist, arranger and educator—began his recording career in 2007 with Jazz, Baby!, a straightahead, swinging salute to the arrangers of the 1960s. He followed that up in 2010 with Two Shades Of Nude, an adventurous nonet effort.

Both albums, released by Origin Records, were strikingly arranged. Neither, however, reflected the identity Beavers had developed as a stalwart in Eddie Palmieri’s band.

“I was noticing there was a disconnect between what I was doing with the Latin stuff,” he said recently over tea in Manhattan. “For the next record I knew we were going to have to relate to my followers and fans in Latin America and in New York. I also needed to showcase my orchestration ability. And I wanted a record that put the trombone at the fore.”

The result, Beavers said, is Titanes Del Trombón(ArtistShare)—“the first record where I feel it is my sound.”

Producing that sound was, in a very real sense, a titanic effort. It involved 43 musicians—among them five trombonists and a bass trombonist—and recording sessions in the states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, California and Washington. 

The sessions began in September 2012 and ended only a month before the CD was released in May of this year.

Making the album, he said, put a premium on his skills in both music and logistics. The charge was to organize a series of recording sessions with various groups of musicians and fit the disparate results together to form a seamless whole. 

By all evidence, Beavers, a onetime engineering student armed with a series of spreadsheets, achieved that goal.

The first session involved the core musicians—pianists Oscar Hernandez and Zacchai Curtis, bassist Luques Curtis and percussionists Luisito Quintero and George Delgado—laying down the basic rhythmic tracks. 

Subsequent sessions centered on recording horns, strings and, ultimately, singer Frankie Vazquez. Along the way, Beavers used the production facilities of the Harlem School of Urban Music and Recording Arts, an innovative after-school program he founded on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

Beavers began recording after he had finished the scores for the pieces. Of the 13 tracks on the album—14 if you count the recapitulation of the opener, “Trombón Moderno”—he composed or co-composed all but “Esa Mujer,” by Carlos Cascante; “Folhas Secas,” by Guilherme de Brito; “Enigma,” by J.J. Johnson; “Take It To The Ozone,” by Freddie Hubbard; and “Borandá,” by Eduardo de Lobo, which he adapted from an arrangement by Ernesto “Papo” Lucca.

In preparing the material, Beavers said he was seeking to create an accessible collection. And the first tune he penned, “Voy Manejando,” sets that tone. 

Its woodwinds and strings (the piece is one of three cuts on the CD making use of the Musical Art Quintet’s violins, viola, cello and double bass) provide a lush bed for the trombones of Beavers and Conrad Herwig, a former teacher of his at the Manhattan School of Music who at one point engages in a lyrical colloquy with his former student.

“I was going after a CTI kind of vibe,” Beavers said, referring to Creed Taylor’s historic label on which expansive arrangers like Don Sebesky once flourished. “Those records are part of my heart.”

For all his attachment to that vibe, the collection is a varied lot. Tunes like “Trombón Moderno,” which features trombonists Beavers, Herwig, Luis Bonilla and Reynaldo Jorge joining singer Vazquez, let loose in full salsa mode. 

Beavers’ powers as an orchestrator are most persuasive on CTI-inflected tunes like “Folhas Secas,” where his rich ensemble writing comes to the fore in a setting shorn of some Latin trappings. The cut, he acknowledged, is his favorite on the album.

Meanwhile, the CD’s most beguiling spots may be three short interludes, thoughtful breathers in which Beavers, the Curtis Brothers, Delgado and Quintero serve up signature fragments of “Viaje,” the CD’s closing tune (save for the recapitulation of “Trombón Moderno”). “Viaje” means “trip” in Spanish, and the piece, Beavers said, “is a kind of an analogy for the whole record; it’s a journey.”

“This is what I want to be known as,” he said of Titanes Del Trombón. “It’s really clarified a lot of things for me, clarified what direction I’m going.” 

Phillip Lutz