Submitted on behalf of Anthony Gallo
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.
The ensemble he has formed is a group, and one that obviously has been playing together for a while. This was the group that creates on his Grammy nominated MELAZA, a passionate album that directly addresses the political problems facing the island of Vieques. Miguel Zenon, on stage with a sacerdotal Zen-like bald head, s a talented and searching player, who did not seem to have the focus of Mr. Sanchez’s tenor. On drums was Antonio Sanchez, who I simply cannot say enough good things about. When I first heard him that evening, I swore that I had heard him before, and it came out in the performance that he has played with Danilo Perez. Antonion was phenomenal, perhaps the best drummer I have ever seen live. He was never anything less than musical and always had the sound of the group in mind. The epitome of taste, a wonderful sound, an amazing rhythmic ability. This was one drummer who seemed to never need a drum solo because every movement was one of brilliant creativity. It sounded as if the group needed his rhythms, much like a newborn needs its mother’s milk. The bassist, Hans Glawischnig, provided a solid foundation for the group, and was well featured at key transition points between movements in compositions. Truthfully, the third piece they performed, a ballad, was owned by Mr. Glawischnig. I don’t know exactly what it was, but it seemed the group played around his center for the song, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Edsel Gomez, the pianist, fully integrated his sound to provide an exhilarating foundation. Like the others, he too seemed to feed off the rhythms of Antonio Sanchez, sometimes anticipating, sometimes following. Harmonically, he gave David Sanchez a pillow on which to fall at any moment no note that Mr. Sanchez ever sounded off key, no matter how obtuse, as long as Mr. Gomez was there to catch him. Lastly, I am not certain of the name of the percussionist. He certainly was gifted, and added another rhythmic spice to the stew, but for the most part seemed unnecessary considering the skill of the other players, especially Antonio Sanchez.
What excites me most is the possibility. David Sanchez, at the young age of thirty-two, has managed to create this brilliant music that also has both passion and focus. But his playing is well beyond his years. I will be getting this album in the near future, hoping that it is even partly as good as the show. The only thing left for Mr. Sanchez to do is to continue to grow and point out to all of us, especially the purists, that there is new music to be made, as long as those brilliant and passionate are still amongst us.