Dr. Clare Fischer All Compositions/Arrangements/Keyboards (except where noted)
Brent Fischer Conductor, Composer/Arranger on 5, Arranger on 1, All Electric
Poncho Sanchez Congas on 1
Alex Acuña Drums on 1, 5, 7, All Percussion (except where noted)
Luis Conte Timbales/Maracas/Bongos/Campana on 1
Peter Erskine Drums on 3, 9
Steve Khan Electric Guitar on 1
Alan Pasqua Synthesizer solo on 9
Quinn Johnson Keyboards on 1, 5, 7
Alan Steinberger Keyboards on 3, 9
Matt Brownlie Electric Guitar on 9
Woodwinds: Don Shelton - Soprano/Alto Saxes/Clarinet/Flute, Rob Hardt -
Soprano/Alto/Tenor Saxes/Flute, Alex Budman - Alto Sax/Clarinet/
Flute, Jeff Driskill - Tenor Sax/Clarinet/Flute/Alto Flute, Sean Franz -
Tenor Sax/Bass Clarinet/Flute, Glenn Morrissette - Tenor Sax,
Lee Callet - Baritone Sax/Clarinet/Flute/Alto Flute, Bob Carr -
Bass Sax/Contrabass Clarinet/Flute, John Mitchell - Bass Sax on 1
Trumpets: Rob Schaer, Pete de Siena, Ron Stout, Carl Saunders,
Steve Huffsteter, Jon Lewis on 5, James Blackwell on 1,
Brian Mantz on 1, Josh Aguiar on 1, Michael Stever on 3, 9
Trombones/Tuba: Charlie Loper, Andy Martin, Scott Whitﬁeld, Jacques Voyemant,
Francisco Torres on 1, Mariel Austin on 1, Charlie Morillas on 3, 9,
Steve Hughes - Bass Trombone/Tuba, Bill Reichenbach -
Bass Trombone, Jim Self - Tuba on 7
The Latino inﬂuence in my life started when I was young – from learning Spanish while rooming with
Latinos in college and listening to their music to playing at clubs in the Barrios of East Los Angeles.
Along the way, my life was transformed through the emotional depth of the rhythms and diverse
After establishing myself by working with Cal Tjader, Laurindo Almeida and others, I started my
own Latin Jazz group, which in turn helped establish people such as Poncho Sanchez, Luis Conte
and Alex Acuña. This group, to which I added singers later, became the focus of my career, even as
I created other groups such as my clarinet choir.
In my life, I’ve had (and written for) groups of anywhere from a duo to 30 musicians (and that’s not
counting the orchestras). But I have my son Brent to thank for creating this new concept, my own
Latin Jazz Big Band, featuring members of my original Latin Jazz group and my regular big band.
Of course, the rhythms are Latin inﬂuenced, but the harmonies are all mine.
– Dr. Clare Fischer, December 2011
From the Director:
I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all 7 continents on this magniﬁcent planet. Besides experiencing
great music in so many countries, the strongest impression that has been left on me is of the incredible
biodiversity I have witnessed in tropical regions. It was also terriﬁc to take my father to some of these
places so we could appreciate them together, just as we have shared our joy of Latin Jazz over the years.
So the dual purpose of this album is to blend our worldwide music inﬂuences with Latin rhythms and to
help continue awareness of the rainforests that replenish our world in so many ways.
Just as exhilarating (and precarious) as trekking through awe-inspiring jungles was assembling all of
these phenomenal musicians to fulﬁll our creative vision. Scheduling 20 or more busy people into the
same studio at the same time is not always possible or even practical. So besides the main recording
sessions and the overdubs of other players that followed, we actually had some underdubs (if that’s a
word) of key parts before the main sessions. That way, anyone who was going to be on tour during and
after the main sessions could still be involved in the project.
In my case, recording my mallet parts before the sessions meant I could just concentrate on playing bass
and conducting the band. Some of my dad’s keyboard parts were done from the comfort of home so we
didn’t have to worry about transporting his giant rig. A few tracks were even recorded over a period of
years as time permitted. Because of this, in some instances it’s difﬁcult to say with certainty exactly who
did what when, but credit has been given where possible. A lot of interesting things happened along the
way and following are some of the details from each track:
San Francisco P.M. – This is one of my many Clare Fischer favorites. We originally recorded it with
the Latin Jazz quintet for our Tjaderama album. More recently, at the First International Clare Fischer
Symposium, my colleague and good friend Cor Bakker played the piano montuno as an example of the
genius of Clare Fischer’s writing and understanding of Latin rhythmic patterns. I became inspired to look
more closely at this piece by arranging it for big band.
Having the participation of my father’s old Salsa Picante group rhythm section of Poncho Sanchez,
Alex Acuña and Luis Conte was just incredible. It was especially great for me to hang out with these
guys as an adult because when we were working together in Dad’s band I was only a teenager. There
are more virtuosi: doubling my vibraphone melody with their masterful artistry is guitarist Steve Khan
and ﬂutist Rob Hardt. Besides the melody, the solos of Steve, then Rob and ﬁnally Poncho blend
superlatively with the Mambo groove being laid down by Alex, Luis, myself, keyboardist Quinn Johnson
and the rest of the band.
Both Rob and Luis had to put their parts on before they left to tour, then we added the rest of the
band. Steve’s contribution was made after that from the East Coast. Thanks to his adroit engineer,
James Farber, and Tino Passante at Avatar Studios in Manhattan, I can proudly say that this salsa
comes from New York City! The ﬁnal virtuoso was mixer Rafa Sardina, who skillfully combined all
of these elements into two stereo tracks.
Funquiado – My father, ever the etymologist, was frustrated that he could not ﬁnd the right Spanish word
to describe the funky riff he came up with for this song, so he made up his own. Loosely translated into the
current early 21st century vernacular, it means funkiﬁed, but that will change over the years as all slang
does. It’s amazing though how the tune sounds just as modern today as it did when it was ﬁrst written.
This piece has a rich history, having ﬁrst been recorded when my dad was working with Cal Tjader in
the 1970s. After that, he wrote a vocal version, which was put on the ﬁrst album I ever worked on:
Clare Fischer and Salsa Picante present 2+2. Remember that one from 1980? It’s where he got his ﬁrst
Grammy. Then for the next 20 or so years the song evolved into its current state.
Canonic Passacaglia, Blues and Vamp ‘til Ready – This masterpiece is a commission from my
father’s former professor at Michigan State University, Dr. H. Owen Reed. It may be the only example in
history of a quadruple Latin rock canon, which occurs near the beginning of the piece and continues in
triple canon into the main body of the work. I’m sure this will become, like many of my dad’s works, the
subject of scholarly research for doctoral dissertations, but thanks to Peter Erskine and Alex Acuña, it
also grooves majestically!
You’re in for a grand adventure as this monumental piece unfolds. It combines the best elements of
symphonic, bossa, rock, blues, counterpoint, quiet reﬂection and hard driving rhythms into a gorgeous
architechture that’s enjoyable on a surface level or as deep as your ears will let you travel. Each time
you listen, concentrate on a different instrument or aspect to get the totality of the creation. Glenn Morrissette’s contemplative tenor sax solos ﬁt consummately into the amazing framework of the passacaglia and blues sections.
Carl Saunders’ brilliant trumpet solo caps the intensity (and density) of the ﬁnal section.
Machaca – This is the title track of the second Clare Fischer and Salsa Picante album, recorded shortly
before I joined the group. Having always enjoyed playing the song live for so many years, I was thrilled
when Dad decided to write a big band arrangement of it so I could participate in the recording of another
of my favorite Clare Fischer tunes.
This project was done in bits and pieces over the years so I’m not sure who the soloists are except the ﬂute
is deﬁnitely Don Shelton; I’ve been privileged to hear him solo like that for about 25 years now and every
one of them reﬂects Don’s joyous approach to life and music. Close your eyes during the ending of the song
and you’ll ﬂoat off into space.
Rainforest – The splendor of the planet’s rainforests instantly came to mind when I started this piece.
I’ve been writing for the various Clare Fischer Bands for almost ten years now, but this work actually started as a commission from The Zapp String Quartet, all exceptional improvisers besides being amazing string
players. The work I wrote for them, Undiscovered Rainforest, was released on their album, Peculiar, in 2008.
They did such a great job that I started thinking about how to turn this chamber music into a completely
different setting while still retaining its original character. I had done something like this before, when I
wrote a big band arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (all ten movements including
interludes). So I took ideas from the string piece and created a new aesthetic for them with our band.
Evocative solos by Andy Martin and Rob Hardt heighten the ﬂuidity and sense of discovery. Then my father
and I utilize a format from our live shows: he provides a lush harmonic setting for my bass solo and I provide
a guitar style chord comping groove for his. The sound at the beginning of the piece is Alex Acuña playing
Thai wind pipes. Think of the world’s rainforests when you hear this. Exploring them respectfully will give
you an awesome sense of what they do for our planet.
Guarabe – Like Machaca, this is also the title track of an album, one my father did with Cal Tjader. The
big band arrangement was commissioned by Joel Leach for the California State University at Northridge
“A” band at a time when guys like Gordon Goodwin, Randy Kerber and John Yoakum were in it. We never
got around to going into the studio with this song, but we found a recording from a concert we had done
a while back. Although it was missing some instruments, we were able to add them as overdubs so it is
presented complete here.
Clare Fischer is known for his extraordinary harmonies but this piece also showcases his rhythmic creativity.
It is a little known fact that, without getting overly complicated, the rhythmic devices of Clare Fischer have
consistently astounded and confounded the ﬁnest musicians in the world. Compositions like Clavo, Bachi,
African Flutes, Gentle Breeze, Baroque, Miles Behind and many others contain ordinary rhythmic motifs
combined in unexpected ways to keep people on their toes.
The Quiet Side – This work of outstanding artistry ﬁrst appeared as a vocal piece on our Grammy-
winning Free Fall album. I’m exceedingly happy to be able to present this big band version, which I found
during my long running and continuing work organizing the Clare Fischer Archive. It is beautiful beyond
words and the horn players treated every nuance with deep reverence.
Pavillon (pronounced Pah-vee-yone) – This arrangement is a stunning re-imagining of the original from our
Crazy Bird album. The feel is different and there are some surprise departures in the development of the
form. It is also a great example of the extra large dynamic range my father employs in much of his writing:
from screaming fortissimos down to whispering pianissimos and all levels in between.
There’s a great line Alex Acuña came up with decades ago when Dad turned around to us at a gig and said
“Guys, I want the middle section on this tune as soft as possible!” Alex replied “OK, you mean almost not
playing.” Dad burst into laughter and added “Yes, but with feeling!” Since then, almost not playing has
become the mantra for every percussionist (and every musician, period) dealing with the most subtle parts
of Fischer writing. Alex gets to do just that again on this tune during Dad’s solo.
Vamp ‘til Ready (Remix) – The ﬁnal section of Canonic Passacaglia is really a masterpiece unto itself and
therefore deserved a second treatment. This is a ﬂowing brass tour de force that is decidedly contrasting to
the counterpoint of the passacaglia from which it evolved. Sounds like I’m describing a symphonic creation
(and, in a way, I am), but this actually is a prime work of Latin Funk. The icing on this seven layer (1-saxes,
2-trumpets, 3-trombones, 4-rhodes, 5-organ, 6-synthesizer, 7-guitar) cake is a soul-ﬁlled solo from Alan
Pasqua using one of my dad’s favorite synthesizers. Alex Acuña’s masterful percussion combined with
Peter Erskine’s commanding drum grooves propel this machine forward like a juggernaut.
Latino percussionists have given my father many nicknames over the years. There’s Clavo Pescador (Clavo
means nail but sounds similar to Clare and Pescador is Spanish for Fisherman). They also called him
Clavecito – a diminutive but endearing term referring to Clare and also cleverly to the Clave rhythms of
Afro-Cuban music. I’ve heard him referred to as El Papa, which is even more reverent than maestro.
Many of these were used playfully during rehearsals. I’ve come to understand that they also represent an
enormous respect for Clare Fischer’s Latin Jazz writing. This is but one of his many innovative approaches
to music that I am more than pleased to carry on. And so the music continues. Now all we have to do is
preserve our ecosystems so future generations can enjoy a world ﬁlled with art and greenery.
– Brent Fischer