Anyone still laboring under the misapprehension that there's an "ECM sound" need only look at the live film score retrospective of Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou's Elegy of the Uprooting, the improvisational classicism of French pianist François Couturier's NostalghiaSong for Tarkovsky and Argentinean bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi's Juan Condoriall released on the same day. These three recordings couldn't be more different. The only tangible links are producer/label owner Manfred Eicher and his "in the moment" aestheticwhich needn't apply strictly to improvisation, but has more to do with capturing the spontaneity of performance.
Saluzzi's discography for ECM has been incredibly varied, and Juan Condori is his first album with this group of largely Saluzzi family members since Mojotoro (ECM, 1992). While focusing primarily on lyricism and breezy rhythms, it still reflects Saluzzi's broad purview. "Los Sauces" is a trio piece for Saluzzi, brother Felix on clarinet and "honorary family member" U.T. Gandhi on percussion. This dark, abstract and often dissonant piece combines improvisation with a new music sensibility. The completely improvised "Improvisacion," on the other hand, is a melodic bandoneon/percussion duet that recalls Saluzzi's more folkloric work on Senderos (ECM, 2005).
Saluzzi contributes all the compositions aside from the collective "Improvisacion," the Pedro Laurencz/José Maria Contursi tango classic "Milonga De Mis Amores," and "Soles," a Ralph Towner-esque classical guitar solo by his son, guitarist José Maria Saluzzi, who appeared on both Cité de la Musique (ECM, 1997) and Responsorium (ECM, 2003). José Saluzzi's evolution on guitar is remarkable, especially considering that he started out as a drummer on Mojotoro. South American music has long been an influence on guitar icon Pat Metheny, and while it's more likely that he's influenced José's electric workmost notably on his relaxed but impressive solo on "Chiriguano"one can also hear his father's influence on Metheny, specifically on "Antonia" from Secret Story (Geffen, 1992).
The effortless musical camaraderie on the lithely gentle "A Juana, Mi Madre," the subtly intense "La Vuelta de Pedro Orillas," the title track's bittersweet melancholy and the sweepingly episodic "Chiriguano" could only come from a lifetime of playing together. Juan Condori may be the Saluzzi Group's first record in fifteen years, but these musicians have continued to play throughout that time, and the result is such a warm and integrated sound that it's easy to lose sight of just how strong each player isand how complex the music can be. Bassist Matias Saluzzi (Felix's son) works hand-in-glove with Gandhi, but also contributes contrapuntally to tunes like the detailed yet playful "La Parecida."
The 71-year-old Dino Saluzzi continues to explore other avenues, so it's inevitable that there will be lengthy gaps between group recordings, even though it's an ongoing concern. Still, with the heartfelt and multi-layered accessibility of Juan Condoriin many ways a culmination of Saluzzi's career to datelet's hope less time passes before the next one.
Track Listing: La Vuelta De Pedro Orillas; Milonga De Mis Amores; Juan Condori; Memoria; La Parecida;
Inside; Soles/La Camposantena; Las Cosas Amadas; A Juana, Mi Madre; Los Sauces;
Personnel: Dino Saluzzi: bandoneon; Felix "Cuchara" Saluzzi: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; José Maria Saluzzi: acoustic and electric guitars; Matias Saluzzi: double-bass, bass guitar; U.T. Gandhi: drums, percussion.