World-ly, and Otherworldly, Beats From the Inside Out
Leonardo E. M. Cioglia
The following words probably do Brazilian bassist, composer and bandleader Leonardo E. M. Cioglia no favors, because it lays the weighty burden of expectation upon him and his group of young musicians. But no other words say precisely this: Contos showcases an acoustic jazz ensemble that so deftly features each individual voice, while naturally integrating each voice into an organic ensemble sound, that Contos continually evokes the legendary Gary Burton-Chick Corea-Pat Metheny meeting of the acoustic Like Minds (Concord, 1998).
As Contos' bassist, Cioglia is more felt than heard. He does not solo, not even once. His bass bubbles up through the rhythmic crevices of "Planalto Central," then simmers back down into the groove. He aggressively moves "Filhos Do Pequi" through the irresistible propulsion of Latin jazz, while Aaron Goldberg double-pumps a colorful and lusty piano solo and saxophonist John Ellis breathes dragon fire on sax; the soloists meanwhile churn atop a rhythmic undertow that conjures the mystical, electric Latin fusion spirit of Return to Forever.
As composer and bandleader, Cioglia allows Ellis and guitarist Mike Moreno to dominate the solo space along with Stefon Harris, whose crystalline vibes ring through six tunes. Moreno consistently displays his grasp of the pastoral eloquenceand more importantly, the sheer beautyof Metheny's guitar approach. Shining like a beacon through the opening title track, tempering "Santa Maria" with soft clouds of melancholy chords, and coupling with sax to create a single, singing voice in "Aroma de Mel," Moreno sounds simply brilliant throughout.
Contos also explores the native music and jazz of Brazil with familiarity and wonder. Harris' vibes lead the soft, reflectively sad melody of "Desfiladeiro de Nuvens" while drummer Antonio Sanchez and Cioglia ebb and flow through its supple Brazilian rhythm. The light melody of "Lençois de Areia" dances on Harris' vibes, shooting sparks off of Moreno's guitar to ignite a smoldering Brazilian fire. Contos resonates with beautiful proof that music need not always be played very loud or fast to be intense.
Bach in Havana
This title provides a pun on the enclosed concept, through which Tiempo Libre, led by pianist and co-producer Jorge Gomez, connects the rhythms and melodies of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz with the venerated melodies and harmonies of Johann Sebastian Bach. "What's interesting to me is that we revere Bach for his musical genius," explains Gomez. "But the fact that he was composing works for his contemporaries as a "popular" artist while also creating deeply religious compositions, and that he was fascinated by dance rhythms, makes him an even more powerful inspiration for me."
Bach in Havana celebrates genius, melodic or rhythmic, in every corner you look. The opening "Tu Conga Bach" cooks up a hot polyrhythmic conga from its first percussion flash fire. The horns and Gomez's piano create a rhythmic undertow by tossing the melody of "Fuga" (based on Sonata in D Minor, BVW.964) back and forth, like cresting ocean waves.
It's hard to convey how "Minuet in G," this Latin adornment of one of Bach's most famous and honored melodies, sounds both profoundly respectful and yet so different. Laying out piano notes like spreading a plush carpet before the ensemble, Gomez transforms the 3/4 minuet standard time into a feverish, compelling 4/4 guanganco that leaps and bounds through a musical kaleidoscope of vocals, congas, trumpet and saxophone.
Percussion and piano merge into a single voice in "Clave in C Minor" (Prelude No. 2 in C Minor), an intensely dynamic whirl of melody made indistinguishable from rhythm that grows even more powerful when the horns jump shotgun on this same groove.
It culminates with the genuinely sacred music of "Kyrie" (Mass in B Minor), which opens with a vocal choir and strings in a reverential mood unbroken when the percussion, piano, and other instruments join the procession. Gomez's piano part is breathtakingly gorgeous, distilling Cuban passion and romantic classicism into one single essence.
Bach in Havana is so good, so expertly conceived and executed, that it's almost ridiculous.
Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber
Making Love to the Dark Ages
Composer Greg Tate leads Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber through melodic and harmonic structures, using a unique repertoire of physical gestures and expressions known not as conducting but as conduction.