Neff Irizarry, guitarist, composer and arranger....
Guitarist, composer and arranger Neff Irizarry (b.1973) hails from the Boston jazz scene and Berklee College of Music (his alma mater) and the core of his musical soul rests in styles ranging from straight-ahead jazz to Coltrane-influenced hard bop and to the early ECM years of Gary Burton and Paul Bley. After studies with people like Steve Khan, Gary Burton and Dave Samuels to name a few, he has gone on to play with such renowned artists as Eddie Henderson, Azymuth, Giovanni Hidalgo, Marc Quiñones, Bobby Allende, Robin Jones, Mr. Gone, Evan Price (of Turtle Island Quartet), Antonio Sanchez (of Pat Metheny Group), and Jimmy Haslip of the Yellowjackets (who produced and played on Neff's debut CD "Nepenthe"). His guitaristic style has been described as being a blend of John Abercrombie, Kenny Burrell and Joe Pass, with a twist of his "mother island" and Puerto Rican madness.
Neff Irizarry & Nepenthe
Guitarist Neff Irizarry and his group Nepenthe combine contemporary jazz with Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Puerto Rican styles of music in a way that few have attempted before: the absence of a piano player in a Latin group is rare if not unseen,
but in this band- with saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and percussion- Neff fills the 88-key gap with clarity and fire. Guitaristic feast of montunos, guajeos, intriguing harmonizations, burning hardbop lines... the result is so interesting that it even gained world-renowned Yellowjackets bass player and Grammy Award winner Jimmy Haslip's attention and brought-about a fruitful co-operation this debut CD by Neff called "Nepenthe" [=Gr solace for sorrow],which he co-produced, partly co-wrote and played on.
Neff's CD features seven of his own compositions as well as new arrangements of compositions by Thelonius Monk, Paquito D'Rivera and a catchy version of Mambo Ricci tune made famous by Eric Dolphy. One of Neff's original compositions on the CD "El Juego", featured on a charity CD entitled "Junction"-Union Station, Pasadena, has already gained airplay in the US before the CD's actual release.
The Band is a fine combination of the finest percussionists in Finland, HOT new talent from abroad and solid cross atlantic groove.
Neff's LIVE performances with Nepenthe and as a sideman have been critically acclaimed across the Finnish Press and his old mentors support his innovations:
"Neff Irizarry has embarked down a path travelled by few guitarists in contemporary jazz and certainly contemporary Latin jazz! Not since the groups of Wille Bobo during the late '60s which featured guitarist Sonny Henry has a guitarist attempted to hold down the entire harmonic weight of such a group. To execute all the montunos, guajeos, necessary harmonizations, and to solo with clarity and fire is a tall order but Neff is certainly up to the task. His group is already on the threshold of doing some very interesting things in the genre, and the potential is endless. Neff's group should open the minds and ears of many as to just what is possible in this format".
-Steve Khan, guitarist
" NEFF IRIZARRYN MAAGINEN KITARA LUMOSI KUUSANKOSKELAISYLEISÖN TELATORIN ILMAISKONSERTISSA"
"NEFF IRIZARRY KAN SIN GITARR... en mångsidig uppvisining av den unge gitarristen Neff Irizarry från USA. Trots sin ungdom är han redan tekniskt mycket
driven och musikaliskt står han knappast långt bakom de tunga namnen."
Ulf Överfors, VASABLADET
"NURKKAAN AHDETTU TÄHTI YLLÄTTI TURKU JAZZISSA... vibrafonisti
Victor Mendozankin opissa ollut Irizarry lasketteli synteesiä John Abercrombien, Kenny Burrellin ja edesmenneen Joe Passin linjoista. Kokonaisuus oli harkittua, aitoa jazzia,
jonka paikka olisi ehdottomasti ollut tapahtuman päälavalla."
Jarmo Wallenius,TURUN SANOMAT
Neff has just been praised for his contributions to Eduardo and his Brazilian Aeroplane's CD " TELEPATIA" on POKO/EMI records.
Finally we have a well honed CD of brazillian renditions of J. Karjalainen's famous songs.....Naturally, the band consists of vital and important foreign musicians such as Eduardo himself and Johnson, among others. BUT, also one must point out the excellent playing of Puertorican american guitarist, Neff Irizarry II, who is well known by all here in Finland for his own progressive Latin Jazz.
Mikko Saarela,RYTMI MAGAZINE 2/03
Neff Irizarry and Nepenthe
Something that induces forgetfulness of sorrow and eases pain from melancholia.
I had the honor of working with guitarist Neff Irizarry and his band on this very special Latin Jazz project entitled "Nepenthe". I was attracted to the compositions immediately and I was very interested in the context that is was being presented. Latin music, in general, is not centered around the guitar. The piano is usually the main melodic instrument with the bass and percussion in rhythmic support.
Here with Neff Irizarry and Nepenthe, we have a unique blend of structure and improvisation with the guitar playing the role of the main melodic structure with the support of the bass, percussion and to add yet another unique element, we have a solo saxophonist, Jamie M. Harris, embellishing the melodicism of the guitar with the hot swirling grooves of drummer, Jartsa Karvonen and percussionist Pete Korpela. To that we added an atmospheric element, provided by electronic keyboards. This, in my opinion, was the icing on the cake and brought a mysteriously open and fresh cinematic coloring to this infectious and alluring recording.
With that in mind, I was extremely excited and interested to visit Finland and record at Millbrook Studios in Helsinki with a very talented recording engineer, Juha Heininen.
All in all, I hope that you enjoy this very innovative Latin Jazz creation by Neff Irizarry and Nepenthe which combines the earthy and rich Latin rhythms of Cuba and Puerto Rico surrounded by a vibrant panoramic score.
Peace and Harmony