This is a protest piece. Buenos Aries born and raised musician / composer / arranger, Jorge Lopez Ruiz, recorded El Grito, in 1967, as an out and out revolutionary statement. Giving free sonic reign to the rage he felt as his country suffered at the hands of a murderous military dictatorship. Hence the album`s title, which translates as, “The Scream”. However anyone expecting a full-on free-jazz fire music skronking screed might be in for a shock. Instead come prepared to dance. As the LP was spinning, Leonard Bernstein`s score for West Side Story was the thing that I was reminded of most. The dramatic, cinematic, explosive, arrangements had me imagining romanticized, Jerome Robbins choreographed, 1950s gang rumbles. Tussles between ballet and tap-trained Capulets and Montagues. The music moving from wistful, to big band bangs, and back down to finger-clicking hepcat, Sinatra and his Rat Pack, cool. Massed horns swapping between the sound of police sirens, and the shouts of lookouts. The sax, a rude cock crow. The set swinging to Birdland be-bop runs with a slinky sidewinding groove. Henry Mancini`s Pink Panther on the prowl.
Under the despot, Juan Carlos Ongania, any form of progress – assimilation of new, foreign, culture – was considered an act against the state. So here, Ruiz` exploration of contemporary North America jazz was enough to have him branded a radical, and his records seen as potential seeds of social unrest – resulting in them being banned, confiscated, and burnt. In a manner very similar to the leaders of Tropicalia movement in neighbouring Brazil – who ended up in exile for embracing The Beatles and Hendrix – Ruiz` vamping, creating a song cycle, based on themes reminiscent of Art Blakey`s Moanin` and Miles Davis` So What, got him into a whole lot of hot water. The over-riding thing that comes through on a close listen, is the clear, sheer, joy the ensemble exude playing together – which itself can’t have been easy. I wonder, given the circumstances, if the sessions took place in secret.
You can order Jorge Lopez Ruiz` El Grito (Suite Para Orquesta De Jazz) directly from Be With Records.