Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Gorgeously Translucent, Welcome Return For Pianist Marta Sanchez

Before the 2020 lockdown, pianist Marta Sanchez built an avid following for her incisively melodic compositions and earned a reputation for incandescent performances throughout New York and beyond. Fast forward to 2022: she was able to pull a first-class band together and make a new album, SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum), streaming at Bandcamp.

Empowerment is a recurrent theme here, no surprise considering the mass disempowerment of the past two years. The first track is The Unconquered Vulnerable Areas: a glimmer from Sanchez’s piano and then the band are off on a determined, loose-limbed scramble fueled by bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer. Allan Mednard. A strange and disquieting dichotomy appears between the chords of the pianist and alto saxophonist Alex LoRe’s off-center phrasing, as if the two are in completely different realities. A societal parable maybe? LoRe straightens out in a dip to harmonize with tenor saxophonist Roman Filiu, then Sanchez takes it out with an anthemic, bristling coda.

A similar sax/piano contrast reappears in the ballad Dear Worthiness: spare. questioning introductory harmonies expand to a sober triangulation, LoRe’s long solo rising from the mist to balletesque leaps as Sanchez punches harder and then delivers a nimble, glistening solo of her own.

Does the title track relate to Goya, or Sequeiros, or Kahlo? Good question. Picasso, maybe? It’s little contiguous for cubism, Sanchez’s purposeful forward drive setting up a similarly edgy Filiu solo as Mednard takes a machete to the underbrush, LoRe resuming a persistent bad-cop role.

The Eternal Stillness is hardly a study in calm, with wistfully soaring sax harmonies and an almost frantically clustering Carter solo. Sanchez follows her wryly spaced chords beneath with a characteristically, gorgeously allusive, Romantically-tinged concluding solo.

She expands the group with Camila Meza on vocals and guitar, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Charlotte Greve adding subtle keys in Marivi, a tender, understatedly poignant tribute to her mom, whom she lost during the lockdown. Gentle trumpet spirals and eventually a glisteningly determined solo from Sanchez testify to what was obviously a deep love between the two women.

The album’s most trad number is If You Could Create It, Filiu’s steady. smoky flutters over Sanchez’s crescendoing modal chords: her chromatically-charged, gleaming solo afterward is one of the album’s high points. The Hard Balance – a work/life dichotomy – seems like a tough one for Sanchez, judging from the song’s moody, slow sway: LoRe gets to be good cop this time. Carter tries to get the party started but this crew is dealing with issues.

December 11th – the day Sanchez lost her mom – is the most serious of them, memorialized via a spare fugue, striking tango inflections, and an maticulously articulated Sanchez solo built around the opening theme. The album’s final cut is When Dreaming Is the Only – the only what? Sanchez makes her point, orchestrating a series of increasingly close, febrile exchanges between Filiu and LoRe over a constantly shifting backdrop with what could be a sly Terry Riley reference.

It’s early in the year to be talking about the best jazz albums of 2022, but right now this is on the shortlist.

March 15, 2022 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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