Attempts to characterize the music of Barcelona-born pianist Marina Albero
seem to get lost in the details. She is not an artist who found herself within a passion for a particular form. That her music is the sum of her life experiences would be a factual description that would nonetheless fall short, given the far reaching, culturally diverse, and wildly meandering path that has occupied her first forty years.
Albero's prodigious talents would be known to but a few early on, despite receiving superior mentorship, status as the daughter of Catalán musician/composer Mariá Albero and a 20 year ensuing partnership with legendary flamenco jazz pianist Chano Dominguez
Motherhood became Albero's priority, which eventually led to her move from Barcelona to Seattle. There, she settled into the vibrant local jazz scene and began teaching, composing and performing. With her much anticipated triple-CD A Life Soundtrack
(Self Produced, 2019), Albero makes up for lost time in a big way. Instead of taking the more predictable route of compressing her diverse musical personality into a 60 minute recording, she breaks down her work into three extended volumes "Albero," "Agua" and "Music Is Love."
"Albero" is a 2014 recording centering on her talented family and friends in Barcelona. She teams with flamenco vocal stylist Alba Carmona for "Mi Secreto," with Albero's physical, on the edge piano supporting Carmona's wavering, chant-like narrative. "Indian Jam" reveals a completely different aspect to Albero's expressionism, as Dominguez guests on piano, freeing her to play psalterium, or hammered dulcimer. Albero is a pioneering spirit of the instrument, experimenting with different tunings to conjure unique sounds from the diatonic instrument. Amid the percussive impulses of Dominguez, dynamic tablas of Gyan Singh, and mystic presence of violinist Chandra Srivastava, Albero adds to a layered, spatial ostinato that lures the listener into a sense of spiritual and cultural liberation.
"Agua" consists of nine improvised pieces created spontaneously. While the music is fully improvised, there is never a feeling that the music is provisional, or an overindulgence of self expressionism. It seems as though Albero taps into memories vividly recalled autobiographically, as dormant musical adventures are suddenly given a springboard into her current artistic here and now.
"Overture" is stated as a premise of melody from which alternative waves are spun in and around the perceptive, intuitive impulses that flow effortlessly from the hands of Albero. Hans Teuber
joins on tenor saxophone for "Interlude," a modal piece that seems to search continually for a musical joining amid journeys on divergent paths that come hauntingly close together at times, only to drift away to a safe distance. In a very real sense, the music of "Agua" is Albero in a comfort zone rarely achieved, a journey taken completely for the journey itself, with a mysterious, yet inevitable destination in her sights.
"Music Is Love" is a sampler of Albero's work since her arrival in Seattle. The music is a direct reflection of a new found sense of independence and creative freedom expressed both as a composer and musician. "The Sweetness of the Edge" features the fine reed work of Teuber, seemingly the perfect musical ally for the intrepid pianist who displays her mastery perhaps most significantly within this piece. Compositionally, the piece rises and subsides within many twists and turns, spinning off into magical soloing from Albero, Teuber, and trailblazing bassist Jeff Johnson
. "I thought I Knew" begins with Albero's sweeping piano intro joined cohesively by Teuber on flute. The movements within the piece are reminiscent of Albero's deep dive into classical piano as a teenager, embellished in grand style by freedom discovered within flamenco and jazz forms. The intricate brush and cymbal work of D'Vonne Lewis
and the always musical soloing of bassist Johnson sets the stage for an explosive exchange between Albero and Teuber, and a shared solo by Lewis and percussionist Jeff Busch
Albero is a uniquely original artist whose music is a multicultural firmament. While you may hear fragments of flamenco, Afro- Cuban impulses and the intricacies of Bill Evans, what is truly being expressed are the creative aspirations of a life in constant motion. A Life Soundtrack
is the culmination of just that.