How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Pianist and composer Albert Sanz is from Spain. He's young (only 26), he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, and on the basis of Los Guys, he's prodigiously talented. As a composer, he seems to revel in the unexpected. His tunes are not cluttered with chords. Rather, they move in utterly delightful ways, with enough harmonic activity to challenge the improvisers and attractive melodies to pull in the listeners. As an improviser, Sanz studiously avoids cliches. He plays thoughtfully with a bristling use of space, and an evident sense of humor. He's well on the way to finding his own voice.
Saxophonist Chris Cheek has already found his own voice, one which makes Los Guys such a joyous listening experience. His tenor sound is warm and slightly dry, while his soprano tone is full and strong. His improvising gets away from mere change running or lick playing. Instead, Cheek spews out and juggles ideas and phrases until their possibilities are exhausted. Hear him on "Don't Wait For 6," in which, on soprano, he plays endlessly creative permutations of a bebop phrase. He gives a seemingly shopworn idea a completely fresh look and sound. He also swings like mad, especially on the album's hidden track, about which more will be said later.
As usual, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard offer sterling support. On "Saritah," for example, Grandier keeps things moving while he adds lithe counterpoint to the solos of Cheek and Sanz. Ballard is especially sensitive, varying his accompaniments to fit each soloist and all the while driving this music.
Now, about that hidden track. The album lists five tracks, ranging from the Latin "Don't Wait For 6" to the engaging waltz "Buscando El Puente," which is track five. But after "Buscando El Puente" ends, there's a short pause, and the band leaps into an untempo swing groove, and absolutely burns, with a brilliant Cheek solo emerging from the boppish head. Perhaps the song title "Don't Wait For 6" is a sly reference to the hidden track, which is actually track six on this CD and is most certainly worth the wait. Albrert Sanz and Los Guys, which was recorded live at the Jazz Gallery in New York City, are worth waiting for.
Track Listing: Saritah, Don't Wait For 6, Nana (aka.'a Michelle), Todo A Su Tiempo, Buscando El Puento, hidden track.
Personnel: Albrrt Sanz, piano; Chris Cheek, tenor sax, soprano sax; Larry Grenadier, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums.
Albert Sanz, piano; Chris Cheek, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Larry Grenadier, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums.