Greg Diamond: Dancando Com Ale (2009)
The intended program that an artist brings to a recording date is usually a good measure of his or her maturity and confidence. For instance, to begin a record with a song that is complex, harmonically and rhythmically bodes well for what is to follow. Guitarist Greg Diamond thought it fitting to begin Dancando Com Ale with his foxy, polyrhythmic "Paradigma." By the time the saxophones leap out of the flames of the ensemble, a forest fire is burning. Now it's impossible to cool the gathering heat. Next Diamond flits in and out of the track harmonizing with muffled chords and articulate notes before the bass and drum continuum of Edward Perez and Ferenc Nemeth, respectively. They explode with controlled fury before navigating the song and all its fire to a jumping end.
Things never are quite the same after that. On one song after another, Diamond spurs his group behind him to raise the stakes. Whether developing a melody in galloping unison or flying harmonically on open strings, the guitarist holds court while other musicians take turns to glow in his orbit. Diamond, it seems, has developed a unique rapport with them alloften with tenor saxophonist, Seamus Blake. They meander through a serpentine pealing away of melody and harmony on "Naufrage." And their scalar spiral through the habanera, "Rebulico," is unadulterated joy to the inner ear. The chords are laconic and the guitarist's choice of single notes is inspired. And by the time Blake picks up the slack to solo, the mood of the song is infectious.
Greg Diamond pulls something else off. He masterfully blends the record with remarkably well-chosen standards. His reading of Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango," is authentic and modern, recalling the emotional drama of what Charlie Haden achieved on his classic Latin date, Nocturne (Universal France, 2001). On the Piazzolla piece, percussionist Arturo Stable gets his turn to shine on cajon and its delightfully off-key resonance. Blake trades eighths with alto saxophonist Brian Hogans with abandon as well. Mongo Santamaria's beautiful "Sofrito" begins unceremoniously in a fresh, minor mode with Diamond's whirling harmonics. Then Hogans returns with his soprano saxophone, exchanging wails with Diamond's own rubato moaning before Stable steals the song's thunder with a masterful tumbadora break.
Diamond is also an adventurous writer. The intrigue of "Paradigma" and the strutting magnetism of "Naufrage" are well contrasted with the swaggering bolero "Delicate Contents." The latter track opens with a moving con arco figure by the bass developing into a thoughtful guitar passage on which Diamond rolls his fingers over medium and lower register frets before weaving a musical tapestry with pianist Emilio Solla.
But the real surprise is toward the end. Diamond's sister, Vanessa, a contralto with a golden voice, tugs powerfully at heartstrings on " Xavier Montsalvatge's and Ildefonso Perada Valdes's glowing and beautiful "Ninghe, Ninghe." This version almost scales the heights that Kathleen Battle achieved on her version, featured on the unforgettable So Many Stars (Sony Classical, 1995). So here then is a guitarist with the tensile strength, fortitude, and heart to scale greater heights quite soon.
Track Listing: Paradigma; Naufrage; Rebulico; Libertango; Sofrito; Delicate Contents; Primavera; Dancando Com Ale; Ninghe, Ninghe; All Or Nothing At All.
Personnel: Greg Diamond: guitar; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone (1-5, 7-10); Brian Hogans: alto and soprano saxophones (1, 4, 6); Emilio Solla: piano (6, 8); Ferenc Nemeth: drums; Edward Perez: bass; Arturo Stable: percussion; Vanessa Diamond: vocals (9).
Record Label: Chasm Records