“Samba Diabolico”


More than 25 years have passed since Lunar Octet captured their funky brand of Afro-Latin groove on their first (and only) album, Highway Fun. The group now reunites for their sophomore release, Convergence (Summit), the album’s title describing their committed commingling of rhythms and styles as well as the gathering of the musicians, who had since gone their separate ways. First forming in the Ann Arbor/Detroit metro area in 1984, Lunar Octet (then known as the Lunar Glee Club), evolved from an Afrobeat jam band to a sophisticated jazz outfit with globe-spanning influences, thanks in large part to the writing and arranging of saxophonist Steven Hiltner. Most of the original crew, plus two new members — pianist Keaton Royer and second percussionist Olman Piedra — combine their skills on Convergence’s sizzling 14 tracks, a mix of brass-fueled samba, salsa, mambo and Afrobeat with a decidedly funky feel. Brandon Cooper’s flugelhorn sounds a bold introduction to “Samba Diabolico,” and he’s joined on the frontline by altoist Hiltner and tenorist Paul Vornhagen (also heard on soprano sax and alto clarinet). Pianist Royer offers a brisk and exciting solo, bolstered by bassist Jeff Dalton, drummer Jon Krosnick and the twin percussion of Piedra and Aron Kaufman. Building in intensity, the track proves Lunar Octet haven’t waned a bit in the decades since their previous recording.

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The Authoritative Voice in Jazz