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Spanish saxophonist Kiko Berenguer has a keen ear for a melody. He's also a lover of flamenco. Both of these characteristics are apparent from the opening bars of Aire, his third album as leader, which combines jazz and flamenco in a set of original tunes.
The lightness of Berenguer's compositions and the energy that flows out of each musician give Aire a distinctly friendly and welcoming feel. There's never any sense of self-indulgencethis is music played for its audience to enjoy and embrace, strongly melodic and easy to dance to. Berenguer has a warm tone on both tenor and sporano and his choice of instrumentation, especially Juan De Pilar's flamenco guitar and João Frade's accordion, complements his sound.
Three of the tunes occupy the poppier end of the spectrum, lacking somewhat in substance but still melodic and engaging. "Conversa" verges into smooth jazz territory with Voro Garcia's sweetly-toned trumpet alongside Berenguer's tenor. "Granadella" has a similar feel, although De Pilar's guitar and Campas' bass give it an edge that "Conversa" lacks. "Canela y Menta" has instant appeal, the Amadors' vocals flying over Campas and Igor Tavan's rhythm.
"Aire" begins with a duet between Berenguer's tenor sax and De Pilar's flamenco guitar, gentle and relaxing. The addition of the palmas of JC and J Amador immediately increases the pace, the tune's mid-section almost sparking with energy before calmness returns. It's surprising what a few handclaps can do to alter the mood and rhythm of a tune. The combination of Frade's accordion and Berenguer's soprano saxophone sounds fresh and charming on "Dancing With The Moon," a sprightly tune that also showcases Rogerio Campas' bass. Frade also appears on "Kiss In Paris," a romantic tune that pairs the accordion with the tenor saxophone and revels in its sultry combination of dance and sensuality.
Track Listing: Aire; Conversa; Dancing With The Moon; Canela y Menta; Narsong; Kiss In Paris; Granadella.
Personnel: Kiko Berenguer: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, vocals; Juan De Pilar: flamenco guitar; Rogerio Campas: bass; Igor Tavan: percussion; J C Amador: palmas, vocals; J Amador: palmas, vocals; Amos Hoffman; oud (1); Voro García: trumpet (2); João Frade: accordion (3, 6); Omer Avital: double bass (5).
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.