Imer Santiago: Hidden Journey (2013)
The opening tune "Girls' Night Out" harks back to the days of classic Blue Note recordings of the 1950s. Santiago's warm, burnished tone embellishes the melody in long notes that blow over the loosely swinging quintet. Barber's tight, soulful tenor complements and mirrors Santiago's improvisation while pianist Bruce Dudley's bluesy, simmering chords take center stage briefly before a return to the head.
On the modal and mystical title track Barber's muscular meandering flute and Santiago's intricate and elegiac trumpet create a dark and haunting ambiance. Bassist Jon Estes' complex and lyrical reverberations add to the overall poetic feel.
The Latin themed, up-tempo "Flat 2176 (Para Puente)" is the most imaginative piece of the record. Percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez's rumbling, irresistibly exuberant beats fade in and out of the spotlight alternating with Dudley's fast, joyous and intelligent pianism. Santiago's high notes bounce off trombonist Roland Barber's earthy growl and baritonist Tyler Summers Trio' resonant, thick lines as the latter takes an exhilarating solo.
Santiago is equally at ease with his regular band mates and the guest artists. The delightfully retro take of the classic "The Very Thought of You" features his muted, mellow horn enhancing the sensuality of vocalist Stephanie Adlington's delivery. Elsewhere on the romantic "Fourthcoming" fellow trumpeter Rod McGaha and Santiago weave undulating, agile phrases around each other like a pair of acrobats performing over the net of percolating rhythms.
This freshman effort lacks a thematic unity and significant innovation but it has passion, enthusiasm and raw talent. Santiago is still looking for his own, unique voice but, as this work demonstrates, his search is captivating and full of charm.
Track Listing: Girl's Night Out; Fourthcoming; Flat 2176 (For Miles); The Very Thought Of You; Hidden Journey; Flat 2176 (Para Puente); What A Wonderful World; Keegan's Prelude; Lonely Nights; Reminiscence; Keegan's Lullaby.
Personnel: Imer Santiago: trumpet & flugelhorn; Rahsaan Barber: alto & tenor saxophones, flute; Bruce Dudley: piano; Jon Estes: acoustic bass; Josh Hunt: drums; Stephanie Adlington: vocals (4); Keegan Imer Santiago: vocals (8); Rod McGaha: trumpet (2); Roland Barber: trombone (6); Tyler Summers: baritone saxophone (6); James DaSilva: guitar (8, 11); Paul Horton: Fender Rhodes (10); Ivan Santiago: electric bass (10); Giovanni Rodriguez: percussion (6,10).
Record Label: Jazz Music City