Galician guitarist Marcos Pin has recorded in trio or quartet settings for a decade, so the dectet that interprets Barbanza represents a significant change in his modus operandi. Judging by the results though, you'd think he'd been composing for larger ensembles from the get go. Inspired by the Barbanza region of Galicia in north-west Spain, you might expect Iberian flavored music, but instead, the short-lived large ensembles of trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist Cannonball Adderleyand their post-bop quintetsseem to inform the music more deeply.
That said, Pin has mostly always eschewed standards in favor of his own material, which no doubt contributes to the confidence and sophistication in the writing. A generous arranger, Pin affords the excellent soloists plenty of space, barely stepping out of the shadows himself until almost half way through the set and limiting himself to an accompanying role. Several of the tracks have been recorded before, of which "Bagueera's Dilemma" from Modern Money Mechanics (Free Jazz Code Records, 2011) with saxophonist Thanos Athanasopoulosstands out for its rich, choir-like ensemble arrangements, infectious swing and fine solos from vibraphonist Ton Risco and tenor saxophonist Xose Miguelez.
A straight-ahead interpretation of saxophonist John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" sees Miguelez, alto saxophonist Pablo Castanho, baritone saxophonist Toño Otero and drummer Max Gómez all stretch out with swagger. In spite of the collective energy, however, the tune remains an anomaly, perched among Pin's originals, though "San Finx" and "Where Are They?" are stylistically rooted to the 1950s Blue Note era. The former is driven by Juansy Santomé's fast-walking bass and Gómez' constant ride cymbal. Castanho's alto sings over plumby brass voicing while Pin's limber solo has a lovely relaxed blues vibe. The latter number is more laid back, though trumpeter Javier Pereiro exhibits some fire.
Some of the most interesting music is also the sparest. Pianist Manolo Gutiérrez and bassist Santomé are protagonists on the atmospheric "Bico de Mar," with vibes, guitar and José Miranda's trombone making minor, though telling cameos. Santomé's unaccompanied solo provides an island of pause before Gutiérrez teases trickling blues figures from the keys, gently coaxed by Gómez' mallets. Reeds and brass make punchy exclamations in reply to the repeated piano motif. On "Noites de Seras," vibes and brushes set the tone on an arrangement whose whispered tones evoke the romance of a summer evening looking out at the Atlantic. Gómez' cymbals conjure the sound of waves breaking and spray riding on the night breeze.
The lively "Escarabole's Blues" shifts between bop language and more abstract territory; Gutiérrez' classical piano imbues the midsection with moody drama before Castanho's restless exploration charts another course, over busy drums. The other instruments gatecrash in shrill and dissonant chorus before the head resurfaces, with one final climactic group note setting the seal.
Pin's vibrant arrangements are done a great service by the uniformly impressive musicians who give them life, and, in no small measure, by the excellent production values. The music sounds somewhat more Brooklyn than Galicia but this is a small quibble against writing and playing of precision and verve.
Bagueera's Dilemma; Moment's Notice; Bico De Mar; San Finx; Where Are They?; Noite De
Sereas; Escarabote's Blues.
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