"When I received tubist, Jim Self’s, “YO!” I was puzzled. Between the cartoonish cover art and the name, Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band, it was hard to take the recording seriously.
Then I read the following endorsement by Poncho Sanchez: “Jim Self has brought a fresh new approach to Latin jazz with his tuba. Very seldom do you hear this combination in jazz, much less Latin jazz. If you love good music, you’ll love this.”
And I took notice of the small print on the cover, which reads: “Featuring the Music of Francisco Torres,” the trombonist and musical director for the Grammy-Award winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band.
Jim Self is an American tubist and composer from Los Angeles. He’s performed with The David Angel Band, the Gil Evans Nonet, his seven-piece group, the Tricky Lix Band and as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral tubist, and studio musician with roughly 1500 recordings to his credit.
His latest love is Latin Jazz, which is not a place where one would expect to see or hear a tuba but, with the assistance of Francisco Torres, who chose the tunes, suggested musicians, composed three of the nine songs, plays trombone and led the band and engineer Tally Sherwood’s “big ears,” he turned his dream into a reality.
A few words about the tuba in jazz: It is the largest and lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family and has been used in jazz since the genre’s inception. In contemporary jazz tubas usually fill the traditional bass role, though it is not uncommon for them to take solos. New Orleans style Brass Bands like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band use a sousaphone (a tuba designed to be easier to play while standing or marching) as the bass instrument. Bill Barber played tuba on several Miles Davis albums, including Birth of the Cool and Miles Ahead. New York City-based tubist Marcus Rojas frequently performed with Henry Threadgill and Howard Johnson’s Gravity, which features six tubas and a rhythm section, takes the instrument to new and unexpected heights.
On the plus side, Self’s tuba adds depth and breadth to the brass section. Also, Self is an adventurous soloist, as evidenced by tunes such as, Cal’s Pal’s, For Charlie, Morning and the bolero, Quiero Llegar. Conversely, some tunes are more “tuba friendly” than others but more often than not, the concept succeeds.
FYI, the title comes from a search of Self’s last name in Spanish, which (roughly) means YO (I, me). Despite the illusory cover art and Self’s quirky sense of humor, YO! is a surprisingly good recording."
-- Tomas Pena (JazzDeLaPena)