Emilio Solla & The Tango Jazz Conspiracy: Bien Sur! (2010)
The music on Bien Sur! carries the tag "Tango Jazz," but pianist/composer Emilio Solla, leader of the Tango Jazz Conspiracy that is responsible for the sound, says he has no idea what that is. The Argentine-born and now New York-based artist has been introducing himself to American audiences in a world msic vein over the course of seven CD releases, including the top notch nonet outing, Suite Piazzollana (Blue Moon, 2002), and the sparer, but just as fine Sentando (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2004), with his group Afines.
Suite Piazzollana was a nod to bandoneon virtuoso and tango master, Astor Piazzolla. On Bien Sur!, a quintet set, Piazolla's spirit is present in the folkloric Argentinean rhythms and the sweet, reedy breath of Victor Prieto's accordion.
Solla is a classically-trained pianist (National Conservatory of Music in Buenos Aires), and his background shows in his beautifully engaging but often complex tunes, with their lilting momentums and fluid ensemble interplay. Saxophonist Chris Cheek, who also appeared on Suite Piazzollana, plays soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones. His tone on all three horns is warm, hollow, woody, and organic, with an exotic tinge that fits right in with Solla's Argentine roots.
On a set of six Solla compositions and one non-original, the ensemble sound is in the forefront, but the leader still manages to show that he is a magical pianist with an exquisite, supple touch during a trio interlude on "Payos." To further augment the world aspect of the music, the disc opens with the stinging sound of Victor Prieto playing Galician bagpipes on "Remain Alert." The interplay is gregarious, with drummer Rich Bashay in a percussion-full-of-the-unexpected mode.
"Hartbeat" features a guest slot by drummer Billy Hart behind the sinewy interweave of Prieto's accordion and Chris Cheek's distinctive soprano sax. "Malena" has a dark, moody, introspective feeling, featuring Cheek on baritone, with another angelic Solla solo. Tim Armacost sits in on soprano sax for a reed conversation with Cheek, again on baritone, on "Chakafrik." The set closes with "Tonos Lejanos," featuring a gorgeously impassioned vocal by Lucia Pulido.
Solla's music, as always, sounds fresh, vibrant and spiritual, with an ancient/brand new improvisational dynamic full of folkloric allure.
Track Listing: Remain Alert; Payos; Hartbeat; Malena; Chakafrik; Candombley; Tonos Lejanos.
Personnel: Chris Cheek: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones; Victor Prieto: accordion, Galician bagpipe (1); Emilio Solla: piano; Jorge Roeder: double bass; Richie Barshay: drums and percussion; Billy Hart: drums (3); Tim Armacost: soprano saxophone (5); Arturo Prendez: tambores (6); Ramon Echegaray: tambores (6); Lucia Pulido: voice (7).