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David Sanchez: Cultural Survival

Chris May By

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It's been almost four years since saxophonist David Sanchez released Coral (Columbia, 2004), the disc which marked the end of an eleven year relationship with Sony Music—and it's wonderful to have his big, singing, prolix tenor back, on song and kicking.



Sanchez has not been idle since Coral, touring extensively with his own band, on a world tour with singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, and on a US tour with guitarist Pat Metheny. He also gave a few headline performances in the US of Eddie Sauter's "Focus," a suite originally written for tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, who recorded it on Focus (Verve, 1961). Sanchez was also Artist in Residence at Georgia State University during the 2005/06 academic year.



Of these experiences, the one that has had the most obvious impact on Cultural Survival, Sanchez's Concord Picante debut, is the tour with Metheny. Though pianists Danilo Perez and Robert Rodriguez are heard on three tracks, their's are guest appearances, and it is guitarist Lage Lund—a vibrant in-the-tradition player with an interesting sideline in subtle, textural, digital effects—who is the album's key chordal player and second soloist.



There are seven originals and one cover—a gorgeous version of Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Mood." Aside from this track and the elegiac "The Forgotten Ones," the disc is up-tempo, assertive, and fiercely energetic. Most of the music sounds like it must have needed detailed written arrangements—there are frequent shifts in tempo, rhythm and dynamics, the introduction of secondary themes, and tension-building passages centered on reiterated motifs—but it all sounds remarkably fresh and organic.



After four years away from the studios, Sanchez has a lot to say, and he solos vigorously, richly, and at length. But while he is generally tagged as a muscular, freebooting player, there's a delicate side to him too. This shines through in the more pastoral passages on Cutural Survival, and is enjoyably reminiscent of saxophonist Phaorah Sanders during his astral jazz explorations of the late 1960s. The African-derived drums, percussion and chanted vocals which open and close the twenty minute opus "La Leyanda Del Canaveral," carry unmistakable echoes of "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" from Sanders' Tauhid (Impulse!, 1967). So, too, do Rodriguez's trippy note clusters. The bass ostinato that introduces Sanchez's main theme, however, references Jimmy Garrison's on "Acknowledgement" from saxophonist John Coltrane's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964).



Sanchez has been missed. Cultural Survival is a brilliant return to disc.


Track Listing: Coast To Coast; Manto Azul; Adoracion; Monk's Mood; Ay Bendito; Cultural Survival; The Forgotten Ones; La Leyenda Del Canaveral.

Personnel: David Sanchez: tenor saxophone, percussion (1, 2), vocal chant (8); Lage Lund: electric guitar; Danilo Perez: piano (2, 6); Robert Rodriguez: piano and Fender Rhodes (8); Ben Street: bass (1-7); Hans Glawisching: bass (8); Henry Cole: drums (1, 4, 5, 8); Adam Cruz: drums (2, 3, 6, 7); Pernell Saturnino: percussion (2, 8).

Title: Cultural Survival | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Concord Picante

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