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Miguel Fernandez-Vallejo: El Perro (2008)

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Miguel Fernandez-Vallejo: El Perro How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

El Perro is the leadership debut for Barcelona-based tenor saxophonist Miguel Fernandez-Vallejo, though he has appeared previously as a sideman on the Fresh Sound roster. In a counterintuitive move, he is teamed with another tenor saxophonist, Miguel Villar, in a piano-less quartet rounded out by Colombian Juan Pablo Balcazar on bass and fellow Spaniard Gonzalo del Val on drums. Together they explore the modern mainstream through eight original pieces penned from across the band, but united by an understated melodicism.

Though one has a lighter tone and an almost Websterian breathiness on occasion and the other has a harder edge, veering slightly more towards dissonance in his features, the two tenors inhabit similar territory. Inexplicably then, there is no differentiation as to who plays what, leaving me none the wiser as to their respective merits. Balcazar keeps things moving insistently without crowding, and takes some delightfully lyrical solos. Del Val is stylish without being fancy.

A varied program, imaginatively arranged, sustains interest with this restricted palette, from the unhurried title track, with its introductory breath sounds and urgent tenor drifting into the higher registers, to "Equinox - Silent Walk," with its martial beat juxtaposed against a mournful theme. On "Bad-Dream" the group is augmented by flute and vibes for an exploration of pastel shades. "Escrich Sobre Schoenberg" is the drummer's tune and closes the album on a funky note, drawing the most animated solo of the set from one of the tenors, but fading out just as he builds a head of steam. In all a solid set for those who like their jazz tasteful and lyrical.

Track Listing: El Perro; Los Colores de la Ambiguedad; Love Song for my Father; Iberian; Equinox - Silent Walk; Bad-Dream; Lo Llaman Amor; Escrich Sobre Schoenberg.

Personnel: Miguel Fernandez-Vallejo: tenor saxophone; Miguel Pinxto Villar: tenor saxophone; Juan Pablo Balcazar: bass; Gonzalo del Val: drums; Gorka Benitez: flute (6); Marc Miralta: vibes (6).

Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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