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Emilio Solla & The Tango Jazz Conspiracy: Bien Sur!

Dan Bilawsky By

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"Tango Jazz," like virtually every other genre-descriptor, is a convenient tag used to categorize what, ultimately, is better understood through listening. Emilio Solla, along with musicians like Pablo Aslan and Pablo Ziegler, are at the forefront of this style. Solla says it best when he explains that the "tango" portion of the title usually refers to the Argentinean origins of the musicians in question, and the "jazz" label addresses the improvisational elements within. Regardless of what it all really means, Solla clearly has a sense of humor about all these buzz words and catchphrases since he named his band "The Tango Jazz Conspiracy."

Bien Sur!, Solla's sixth CD as a leader, covers a wide-range of styles and moods across its seven tracks. While the core quintet of Solla on piano, Chris Cheek on saxophones, Jorge Roeder on bass and Richie Barshay on drums and percussion is a tight unit, the guests that appear on four of these tracks also help to make each piece unique. Solla wrote six of the seven tracks, and he often likes his compositions to begin with one or two instrumentalists setting the mood before the full ensemble kicks in. While this idea is used on more than half the material here, it never gets old because of how it's used. One time it's Solla's romantic piano gestures that start things off, while on another track it's a duo dance between Cheek's suggestive saxophone and Roeder's bass. Drummer Billy Hart's guest spot gives him one of the lengthier solo introductions on the album, and the music almost leans toward the avant-garde until the full band arrives, nearly two minutes into the song.

Other guests on the album also play important roles. Vocalist Lucia Pulido lends a certain amount of grace and elegance to the music and Solla's respect for her is clearly demonstrated by his supportive piano work. Saxophonist Tim Armacost gives Cheek some company, and they dance around one another with glee. Solla even brings in percussionists Arturo Prendez, Manuel Silva and {{Ramon Echegaray|| to spice things up on one piece.

While the guests bring their own special qualities to the music, Solla still sets the tone here, and each member of the band plays an important part. Prieto's accordion work lends a degree of Tango authenticity to the proceedings, providing some of the most satisfying solos on the album and serving as a binding agent when he helps things blend and balance out. Roeder and Barshay straddle the stylistic fence while providing captivating grooves, and Cheek demonstrates the most extroverted sound, and a vocabulary that leans more toward modern jazz. Bringing all of these elements together helps to create a form of global music that is both gratifying and exciting...regardless of what you might call it!


Track Listing: Remain Alert; Payos; Hartbeat; Malena; Chakafrik; Candombley; Tonos Lejanos.

Personnel: Emilio Solla: piano; Richie Barshay: drums; Billy Hart: drums(3); Jorge Roeder: bass; Victor Prieto: accordion; Chris Cheek: soprano, tenor & baritone saxophones; Arturo Prendez: tambores (6); Manuel Silva: tambores (6); Ramon Echegaray: tambores (6); Lucia Polido: voice (7); Tim Armacost: soprano saxophone (5).

Title: Bien Sur! | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent


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