As a jazz fan, I can certainly admit that artists can be hit-or-miss. We have all been to see magnificent artists perform magnificently and at other times been devastatingly disappointed. And sometimes, we are fortunate enough to go see a show with extraordinary expectations and have the artist surpass those expectations in every way.
Davis Sanchez did just that. I went to see David Sanchez and his ensemble perform on Thursday April 5th at a cultural center in the South End of Boston. I was accompanied to the performance by a small group of friends who I kept telling would be flabbergasted by the show. Egotistically, I wanted them to understand the power many young “Latin” musicians bring to their music. I don’t like the way many of us here in the good ol’ US of A use the word “Latin” to describe any ethnicity whose home resides below the Rio Grande. But the reason this artificial boundary exists is because of the importance traditionally placed on rhythm in Latin music, as opposed the straight three’s and four’s we all grew up dancing to here. This inherent syncopation, that “Spanish tinge” we have all heard about, remains the key element in making the music what it is. This music is sexy. This music makes you move, your toes tap as if in tremor. Something very basic, very elemental, works here, making its presence strongly felt.
The most obvious force at the event was Mr. Sanchez. It took me a long time to try and figure out his particular musical conception; where his tone was coming from, how he related to the rhythms and melodies. His tone did have elements of Coltrane in it, but it seemed more polished, like Dexter Gordon. It was a derivation from his predecessors, but DEFINITELY his own style. His melodic abilities could only compare to Gordon or Stan Getz. But what was most thrilling about his playing was the passion. His playing was so filled with singing and passion that it almost seemed to overcome him at times. But no, he held the reins on those two wild animals, not flying around on endless searches for notes. The notes came to him, they served him, they bowed down to his presence. And the rhythm?, you may ask. Mr. Sanchez’s sax playing has fully integrated, but did not rely on, the rhythmic lexicon that has been passed down to him. He playing HIS music not jazz, not Puerto Rican music, but a fully integrated style that payed homage to both heritages that have been passed down to him. Gato Barbieri and Wayne Shorter were both audibly present (and they kicked off with Shorter’s “Prince of Darkness”), but neither seemed dominant. It was simply wonderful to hear someone who has come fully to terms with his past, and brought all of the elements together.
Let’s just get one thing straight. A lot of people out there in the “jazz community” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) always talk about how there is nothing new in jazz, how everything today is simply repetition of the past. I have two problems with that argument. First, people can only create from what they know – true originality comes in the new conception that is born. Second, that statement is simply ignorant. I always find that purists never really listen and stretch out their ears, finding it much easier to simply bitch about the new music and end up reverting to their transitional objects. David Sanchez is making new music, and he seems to have found the best people to do it with.