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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Epic, Vivid Spanish-Tinged Big Band Jazz and a Joe’s Pub Show From Emilio Solla

Pianist Emilio Solla writes picturesque, symphonic, state-of-the-art big band jazz that draws on both tango and Spanish Caribbean traditions but transcends both. For those who might be interested in how this chorizo is made, Solla and flamenco-jazz saxophonist/singer Antonio Lizana are launching their upcoming tour with their new quartet at Joe’s Pub on March 25 at 9. Cover is on the steep side, $30 for a bill which four years ago might have been better staged at the late and badly missed Jazz Standard. Good luck dodging the waitstaff, who may or may not be enforcing a minimum at tables.

Solla’s most recent album with his Tango Jazz Orchestra is Puertas: Music from International Waters, streaming at Bandcamp. He dedicates each track to a different city around the world; the result is as cosmopolitan and majestic as you could possibly want. The loose connecting thread is patterns of global immigration and its challenges. Beyond inspired solos, Solla’s compositions have a dynamism and element of surprise beyond most of the other composers in his demimonde.

The opening number, Sol La, Al Sol has subtle tango allusions in the big splashes of color from the orchestra, setting up a bright, assertive Tim Armacost tenor sax solo. The bustle grows to a blaze before trombonist Mike Fahie takes a judicious, spacious solo of his own. The band have fun with Solla’s punchy countermelodies on the way out. Lots going on here.

Guest Arturo O’Farrill takes over on piano as the epic second track, Llegara, Llegara, Llegara begins. The orchestra answers him and then rises with an early-morning suspense as he cascades. Julien Labro’s accordion weaves in and out, over a determined charge down the runway fueled by bassist Pablo Aslan and drummer Ferenc Nemeth. Tenor saxophonist John Ellis takes charge of the lull that follows, choosing his spots over a long, increasingly lush crescendo. The twin piano coda with O’Farrill and Solla trading off is decadently delicious.

In Chacafrik, dedicated to the Angolan city of Benguela, the orchestra shift from a cheery, retro brassiness to a rumble and then sleekness before hitting a circling qawalli groove, Todd Bashore’s alto sax at the center.

Terry Goss’ wistful baritone sax adds a wistful undercurrent as La Novena, a dedication to Solla’s hometown Buenos Aires, gets underway; it’s an otoño porteño, Labro’s bandoneon solo signaling a sober, steady rise at the end. The trumpets – Alex Norris, Jim Seeley, Brad Mason and Jonathan Powell – figure lyrically and sparely in Four for Miles, a pulsing tango-jazz mini-epic with a tantalizingly brief lattice by the first and last on that list at the end.

Edmar Castañeda’s harp introduces Allegron in tandem with Solla’s piano over tricky, punchy Venezuelan rhythms. Once again, Solla brings in towering grandeur in between the moments where Castañeda isn’t threatening to break several strings, Ellis adding a triumphantly balletesque solo on soprano.

Solla draws his inspiration for Andan Luces from Cadiz, a baroque-tinged counterpoint from the high reeds ceding to a pensively incisive solo from Aslan and cheerier flights from the bandleader’s piano. Stormy low brass anchors contrasting highs to kick off the final number, Buenos Aires Blues. Trombonist Noah Bless bobs and weaves over Solla’s kinetic syncopation, with Norris, Goss and Labro riding the waves in turn.

The album also benefits from the collective talents of soprano saxophonist Alejandro Aviles, trombonist Eric Miller and bass trombonist James Rodgers.

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March 20, 2023 Posted by | jazz, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lively, Richly Arranged New Big Band Album and a Smalls Show from Emilio Solla

Pianist Emilio Solla writes colorful, rhythmic, ambitiously orchestrated music that could be called latin jazz, but it’s a lot more eclectic and global in scope than your basic salsa vamp with long horn solos. Like his music, Solla is well-traveled: born in Argentina and now in New York for the past decade after a long stopover in Spain. His new album Second Half with his brilliant nine-piece ensemble La Inestable de Brooklyn – streaming at Spotify– draws equally on Piazzolla-inspired nuevo tango, Brazilian, Spanish Caribbean and American jazz sounds. Solla and his mighty group have a show this Sunday, May 7 at 4:30 PM at Smalls; cover is $20, and you get a drink with that.

The band comprises some of the more adventurous jazz players in New York: Tim Armacost on saxophones and alto flute; John Ellis on tenor sax, flute and bass clarinet; Alex Norris on trumpet, Ryan Keberle on trombone; Meg Okura on violin; Victor Prieto on accordion; Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums. Much as the title of the opening track, Llegará, Llegará, Llegará, implies that there’s something just around the corner, it’s a nonstop series of bright, incisive, alternating voices over a galloping, samba-tinged groove, a real roller-coaster ride, as lush as it is protean.It’s especially interesting to hear Solla’s original here, compared to the blistering cover by bagpiper Cristina Pato, which is practically punk rock by comparison.

The second track, Chakafrik has a brass-fueled Afro-Cuban flavor subtly spiced with accordion and violin and more of those intricately intertwining, polyrhythmic exchanges of riffs from throughout the group. The Piazzolla-inspired Para La Paz brings the volume and tempo down somewhat, but not the energy, lit up by warmly lyrical solos from tenor sax and trumpet up to a big, lush crescendo.

The first part of Solla’s epic Suite Piazzollana (his Spanish group Afines did the second) takes a bouncy folk theme in all sorts of directions: how do you say dixieland in Spanish? Tierra del sur? From there, Solla builds a long, exploratory piano solo, then the band take a judicious, rather tender interlude, Norris’ resonant trumpet paired against Okura’s uneasy staccato violin. The long build out from there makes the group sound twice as large as it is, with their constant exchanges of riffage.

Esencia sets bright, hefty newschool big band textures over an altered clave beat, Solla’s rather droll, vamping second solo kicking off a big, rapidfire, bustling coda. American Patrol is a jovial blend of Mexican folk and New Orleans swing – when the quote from the cartoon comes in, it’s impossible not to laugh. Raro, a bustling, cinematically swinging number, edges toward the noir, with more tasty trumpet-violin jousting and a very clever switch from dancing, staccato brass to brooding nuevo tango orchestration. The last track is Rhythm Changed, another very clever arrangement, with its understated polyrhythms and uneasy harmonies from throughout the band circulating through a pretty standard midtempo swing tune. Throughout the album, the performance is tight and driving but also comfortable: this crew obviously has a good time playing this material, and it’s contagious. Not what you might expect from a group who call themselves “The Brooklyn Unstable.”

June 3, 2015 Posted by | jazz, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment