Luis Muñoz: Luz (2013)
Lessons in lightor, in Spanish, luzlush arrangements need not be dense, as proven in Costa Rican-born Californian Luis Muñoz's compositions, orchestrations and arrangements on Luz, his sixth release for the Pelin label following the widely acclaimed Invisible (Pelin, 2010) and Of Soul And Shadow (Pelin, 2008).
While his roots go back to Central America, this release bears a folkish Americana, one that absorbs influences and styles from every musician with whom Muñoz interacts. From the shortest, simplest melody of "Entra El Mar Y La Tristeza," played on guitar and marimba, to the percussion charged "El Sendero De Las Aves," which mates drummer Carlomagno Araya, bata drummer Ramses Araya, and Muñoz's West African shereke gourd with a Latin bebop horn section, the percussionist/pianist keeps things snappily simple. Muñoz's influences gather sounds from many continents and several islands. "Amarilis" could easily be mistaken for a Cuban jazz composition from pianist Chucho Valdés, that draws from a Spanish legacy, mixing violin, piano and trumpet.
The three vocal tracks, "El Sueño De Adán," "Al Silencio," and "Testamento/Mas Allá" come across as sumptuous without sounding opulent. Here, Muñoz's ability to absorb cultures and reproduce with empathy is the kicker. "Invisible" could be mistaken for a bit of guitarist Bill Frisell's Americana, with Jonathan Dane's cornet shadowed by the Western feel of Bill Flores' pedal steel guitar. Even the short (1:37) "Preludio" delivered as a quasi-classical chamber piece bears an accent.
Track Listing: El Sueño De Adán; Invisible; Amarilis; Al Silencio; El Sendero De Las Aves; Vals De La Luz; Preludio; Testamento/Mas Allá; Entra El Mar Y La Tristeza.
Personnel: Luis Muñoz: percussion (1, 8), background vocals (1), drums (2, 4), piano (2-6), shekere (5); Adam Asarnow: piano (1-3, 6); Tom Etchart: acoustic bass (1-6, 8); Jonathan Dane: muted cornet (2), trumpet (3-5, 8); Bill Flores: pedal steel guitar (2); Laura Hackstein: violin (3); Narciso Sotomayer: acoustic guitar (3); George Friedenthal: piano (4-8); Téka Penteriche: vocals (1, 4); Carlomagno Araya: drums (5); Ramses Araya: bata drums (5); Tom Buckner: tenor saxophone (5); Christopher Judge: acoustic guitar (6, 8); Magos Herrera: vocals (8); Gilberto González: acoustic guitar (9); John Nathan: marimba (9).