David Sanchez: Cultural Survival (2008)
What remains constant - no surprise given Sánchez’ island heritageis the saxophonist’s predilection for propulsive Afro-Cuban and folkloric rhythms, richly provided here by crack drummers Adam Cruz and Henry Cole (four tracks each) and percussionist Pernell Saturnino (and, on the disc’s epic closer, “La Leyenda del Cañavera,l, by the leader himself; Sánchez played conga before picking up the sax at the age of 12).
But, as so often with Sánchez, these rhythms are the ledge from which to leap, not an end in themselves. For Sánchez is far from the “Latin” artist he’s often (unfairly) pegged to be: Cultural Survival’s real reference point is the peculiar harmonic language of Wayne Shorter and even salsa legend Eddie Palmieri’s “Adoración” veers decidedly into post-bop territory in Sánchez’s hands. (The presence of Shorter’s current pianist, the brilliant Pérez, and a tender reading of “Monk’s Mood,” the disc’s other cover, leave little doubt about where Sánchez’s heart lies.)
Comprising the bulk of the disc are six arresting Sánchez originals, widely varying in tone and color: the densely packed opener, “Coast to Coast” (on which Lund is effective both in support and carving out his own sparkling space); the airily expansive “Manto Azul”; the vibrant, thorny “Ay Bandito”; the romping and tumultuous title track; the wistfully passionate “The Forgotten Ones” and, most striking, the aforementioned “La Leyenda del Cañaveral.”
Taking as its inspiration a poem by Sánchez’s sister, Margarita, which documents the travels of African slaves to sugar cane plantations, “La Leyenda del Cañaveral,” at 20+ minutes, is an entire voyage in itselfand, though not without its moments of bewilderment and confusion, a voyage that’s surprisingly brimming with hope. Or perhaps not surprisingly at all, for, filled with resilience and wonder, “Cañaveral” looks forward, not backlike the intrepid Sánchez himself, who continues to forge his own idiosyncratic path and refuses to be bound by labels, or tradition, or expectationsor even success.
Track Listing: Coast to Coast; Manto Azul; Adoracion; Monk's Mood; Ay Bendito; Cultural Survival; The Forgotten Ones; La Leyenda del Canaveral.
Personnel: David Sanchez: tenor saxophone, percussion (1, 2), vocal chant (8); Lage Lund: electric guitar; Danilo Perez: piano (2, 6); Robert Rodriguez: piano and Fender Rhodes (8); Ben Street: bass (1-7); Hans Glawisching: bass (8); Henry Cole: drums (1, 4, 5, 8); Adam Cruz: drums (2, 3, 6, 7); Pernell Saturnino: percussion (2, 8).
Record Label: Concord Picante
Style: Modern Jazz