Pianist Jose Negroni has had a rich and varied career as a music teacher at a conservatory in his native Puerto Rico and as Director of Sony Music Publishing. But over the last 10 years he’s put his knowledge into practice, playing festivals around the world with his wonderfully rhythmic trio. No small part of the credit for the group’s sound goes to his son, Nomar Negroni, on drums, who trained at Berklee College of Music. The group has had a number of bassists over the years, but on its current album the excellent Josh Allen fills that chair.
The charm of “On The Way” lies in the fusion of jazz with a Latin sensibility. Negroni composed eight out of the 10 tunes, all of which grow richer with every listen. The first of the two covers is the gorgeous standard, “Estate” by Bruno Martino, played with perfect sensitivity. The second is the most unusual tune on the album, the bragging Sinatra anthem “My Way.” If that commentary sounds negative, it’s because I’ve never liked the tune, or appreciated its chord structure until I heard Negroni’s version.
While five of the tracks showcase the trio, two guests add a great deal to the other five. The great tenor and soprano saxophonist Ed Calle slithers his way through Negroni’s “Dancing With the Bass.” Calle gets considerably farther out on “Looking For You” and enhances two more of Negroni tunes. “Retrospection,” Negroni’s most beautiful ballad, concludes the album with the addition of the superb violinist Federico Britos. But throughout the disc, the common denominator is the percussive, melodic, complex and elegant keyboard work of Negroni.