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Filtron M: Astoria Roots Live

James Nadal By

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In a genuine international collaborative effort, with sessions recorded in New York and Zurich, Astoria Roots Live showcases the eclectic sounds of Filtron M, performing in a live setting. Launched as a musicians' collective based out of New York under the direction of pianist/composer Manu Koch, this project has expanded into Europe and integrated musicians from around the world. Favorably compared to the work Joe Zawinul did with Weather Report and in his later recordings, Filtron M draws on that dimension, but takes it on a contemporary spin.

A prolific musician both as leader and sideman, Koch joined the members of his two previous bands, Astoria Roots and Unique Afrique, to form Filtron M. Koch is not only the director and composer, but the principal soloist as well. That is not to say, however, that the other members do not have free rein to improvise over his melodic structures and themes. Percussion is forefront, with the sound relying heavily on Mauricio Zottarelli's drumming and two different conga players for its propulsion. Bassist Panagiotis Andreou is intuitively locked in with Koch, covering the lower register with aggressive virtuosity.

The sessions from Zurich begin with "New Year's Labyrinth/Stages," an extended free jam formatted around the trio setting of Koch, Andreou and Zotarelli, with Sebastian Nickoll sitting in on congas, establishing the high musicianship that defines the entire record. Cuban songstress and flutist Yaite Ramos is featured on "Merce," which commences in an electric explosion but settles into a smooth Caribbean groove highlighted by Ramos' sensual vocals. The same lineup continues on "Launching," though this goes into an additional Latin jazz direction, as Koch moves over to acoustic piano.

The remaining four tracks, recorded at New York City's famed Iridium club, seamlessly round out the repertoire, and it is hard to tell the difference in venues or sessions. "Organic Crimes," brings in Tamer Pinarbasi on the middle-eastern kanun (similar to a zither), as the mood veers into an Arabian-tinged tempo. Chilean performer Camila Meza's soothing voice and guitar tempers "Label La Belle," as the group revisits the romantic aspects of Latin American music. Meza reprises her guitar role in "Solar Cycles," where she is joined by Pinarbasi on kanun for a free-form engagement, leading into an urban blues expression with David Barnes on harmonica.

Filtron M, on this project, revolves around a concept of layered rhythms emphasizing stimulating world grooves, anchored by free-wheeling bass lines and embellished with dynamic keyboard wizardry. The contributions from special guests add exotic gradations, allowing the production to ascend into creative orbits that go well beyond jazz, fusion or other labels. It is inventive, spontaneous music that will leave listeners clamoring for more.

Title: Astoria Roots Live | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: True Groove Records

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