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Gabriel Vicens brings together simpatico colleagues from the scene in his native Puerto Rico and beyond to explore twelve of his works on the guitarist and composer's debut, Point in Time. Vicens' compositions explore quirky, catchy heads ("Point in Time," "Beautiful Place"), plenty of vamps ("La Diferencia," "Frame of Mind" and "El Camino") and medium tempo grooves blending straight-ahead and Latin rhythms ("El Comienzo," "Cuadro"). He also includes brief, abstract introductions to several tunes by one to two players.
Both Vicens' compositions and his guitar emphasize mood and space rather than chops or harmonic deconstruction. On the gently stepping "El Comienzo," he leans into and bends notes, displaying the gradually unfolding approach heard throughout this album. He often relies on repeated notes and quick passages fading into suspensions, for example on "La Diferencia." Rarely imparting a sense of intensity or cohesion, Vicens instead spins several reflective, varying ideas, best illustrated on the extended jam "El Camino."
Vicens' smooth tone (without any twang) and even lines jell perfectly with saxophonist Jonathan Suazo. "El Camino" begins with Suazo's slithering alto wrapping around Vicens' murmuring guitar, before both voices coalesce into an understated melody. On "El Comienzo" and the breezy ballad "Beautiful Place," Suazo catches Vicens' laidback aesthetic, while the title track and "La Diferencia's" funky ostinato feature Suazo's agitated bop runs and attractively acrid upper register. Tenor sax star David Sanchez
guests on three tracks, with clean, metallic echoes on "Intro to Cuadro" and a flowing solo for "Cuadro." Sánchez ups the album's emotional ante, spurring Vicens to his most extroverted playing.
Point in Time's gauzy textures leave ample room to hear pianist Eduardo Zayas and drummer Vladimir Coronel. They respond subtly but powerfully to the collective, for example Coronel's crisp snare on "El Comienzo" and Zayas' empathic comping behind the leader on "Point in Time." Australian bassist Matt Clohesy
replacing him on five tracks, offering nimble, concise statements and percussive effects on "Cuadro" and "Intro to El Camino."
Vicens points to influences from ambient music and post-rock as well as jazz, which explain the relaxed energy and atmospheric (occasionally static) character of Point in Time. While Vicens' future releases might benefit from hearing more of what the young artist has to offer, his debut still offers dynamic interplay and soul beyond mere mood-setting.
Track Listing: El Comienzo; Point In Time; Intro to La Diferencia; La Diferencia; Intro to Cuadro; Cuadro; Beautiful Place; Intro to Frame of Mind; Frame of Mind; Intro to El Camino; El Camino; The World In My View.
Personnel: Gabriel Vicens: guitar; Jonathan Suazo: alto sax; Eduardo Zayas: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Eddie Gomez: bass; Vladimir Coronel: drums; David Sanchez: tenor sax.