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David Sanchez: Coral

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David Sanchez's Coral is the latest in what has turned out to be a somewhat lonely genre: the orchestral jazz album, in which a soloist is placed against a backdrop of strings (think Sketches of Spain , Focus , or Charlie Parker with Strings ). It's an airy, lush, thoughtful work, with a program that is a fascinating mix of South American composers influenced by French Impressionists, performed by a Puerto Rican saxophonist with a Czech orchestra in tow (whew!). And it's impeccably recorded. (Audiophiles take note: it's a hybrid super audio CD, compatible with both traditional and SACD players.)

Of course, listening to Coral , one can't but help lament that it usually takes a major label budget—this album was released on Columbia—before the typical jazz musician can even consider recording with strings nowadays. As a result, the genre—which, sadly, tends to be poo-pooed by jazz purists anyway—has been underdeveloped.

Coral works against that deficiency. Like many good records, it succeeds on a number of different levels at once. Aside from the presence of strings (beautifully arranged and conducted by Carlos Franzetti, who also wrote "Vexilla Regis," one of the album's moodier tracks), it serves as a historical document of sorts, resuscitating and preserving little-known works by three great Latin American composers: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Alberto Ginastera. Despite his lesser-known status, the latter is actually the star of the show here; his gorgeous "Vidala" is, to my ears anyway, the album's centerpiece.

Of course, Coral is also a vehicle for Sanchez's artistry: his full (though somewhat polished) sound, his improvisatory consistency (note the frenzy he whips up on his own composition, "Cancion del Canaveral"), and his solid, fusiony writing (two of his pieces are included here: in addition to the aforementioned "Canaveral," there's "The Elements II"). It's not overstating the case to say that, despite the respect and humility he brings to this project (which he refers to as a "dream come true"), Sanchez surely holds his own in what amounts to highly esteemed musical company.

Track Listing: Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar, Matita Pere, Vidala, Coral, Punambi, The Elements II, Vexilla Regis, Cancion Del Canaveral, Archipelago.

Personnel: David Sanchez, tenor saxophone; Miguel Zenon, alto saxophone; Edsel Gomez, piano; Ben Street or John Benitez, bass; Adam Cruz, drums; Pernell Saturnino, percussion; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Title: Coral | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Columbia Records

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