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Greg Diamond: Dancando Com Ale

Edward Blanco By

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Guitarist and sideman Greg Diamond is a rising star in the New York jazz scene, and through the release of Dancando Com Aleon Chasm Records—his debut as leader—Diamond stakes his claim for a small piece of the jazz world with a gem of a recording. Providing stirring interpretations of Latin and contemporary jazz sounds, Diamond puts a shine on the album with exciting new compositions and stellar reads of some uncommon standards. Included in the repertoire are Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal's percussive "Rebulico" featuring the guitarist's splendid riffs, the Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria tune "Sofrito," and Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge's soft, down-tempo lullaby "Ninghe, Ninghe," with vocals performed by sister Vanessa.

For this first effort, Diamond assembled a fine cast of musicians. Among them is English-born and Canadian raised, New York journeyman Seamus Blake on tenor, who is joined by Brian Hogans providing alto and soprano saxophones on selected tracks. Esteemed Argentinean pianist Emilio Solla leads a rhythm section that includes Hungarian drummer Ferenc Nemeth, New York Latin-jazz heavyweight bassist Edward Perez and Cuban percussionist Arturo Stable: hailed by the Latin Jazz Network as "one of the newest Cuban talents in the U.S."

The guitarist establishes the tone early with the hard-driving "Paradigma," marked by sturdy reed work from both Seamus and Hogan, allowing Diamond to concentrate his efforts on the rhythm side. Bassist Perez introduces Diamond's "Naufrage," a dark and intricate piece the guitarist develops quite nicely with sprawling lines. Hogans and Blake play pronounced roles on Astor Piazolla's "Libertango" as Diamond lays down delicate tango chords in support of the moving melody. Playing a bit of Afro-Cuban rhythm, he then leads the band on Santamaria's gyrating "Sofrito" with drummer Nemeth providing splashing cymbal accents to Stable's percussive beats on the conga.

Diamond is superb on the reed-free and spacious ballad "Delicate Contents." Picking the strings ever so lightly, he leads the rhythm section with Nemeth providing excellent brush work and Solla supplying cushy piano lines on a very brief, but wonderful composition. This is followed by the highly expressive Latin-jazz burner "Primavera"—one of the center pieces of the recording—showcasing solid solos from Diamond, Perez and Blake.

With the percussion and the sax providing the reference point in the swinging title tune, this Brazilian- flavored, rhythmically-rich score moves all over, with delicious play from the entire group. Diamond chooses to end the set with the Lawrence/Altman standard "All Or Nothing," giving more solo space to Blake who shares that spot light with Perez, both delivering crisp concise solos to cap off an impressive session of music.

Greg Diamond's contribution towards the success of this compelling debut is not so much rooted in his performance on the guitar, but to the depth and versatility of his compositions, and his rich lyrical arrangements which make Dancando Com Ale one of the stronger jazz albums of 2008. Not to be underscored, the musicianship provided by The Greg Diamond Group is another important factor in elevating this recording to the upper echelon of jazz album debuts.

Track Listing: Paradigma; Naufrage; Rebulico; Libertango; Sofrito; Delicate Contents; Primavera; Dancando Com Ale; Ninghe, Ninghe; All Or Nothing.

Personnel: Greg Diamond: guitar; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Brian Hogans: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone (1,4,5); Emilio Solla: piano (6,8); Ferenc Nemeth: drums; Edward Perez: bass; Arturo Stable: percussion; Vanessa Diamond: vocals (9).

Title: Dancando Com Ale | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Chasm Records

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