A varied mix of influences has gone into the songs on this, Gabriel Vicéns' second album. There are the the loves of the guitarist's young life, the vampires and werewolves of the horror films he enjoys and the everyday trials and tribulations of the working people of his native Puerto Rico.
He says: "I wrote 'Days' as a tribute to ordinary people who need to wake up early and work hard every single day... doing the same things over and over again."
Lastly, but very importantly, there's the influence of Puerto Rico itself: a melting pot of aboriginal Taino, Spanish, African and North American culture.
It is all of this, plus Vicéns' solid grounding in jazz, which he teaches at Puerto Rico's Interamerican University, along with his collaboration with Russian/American trumpet player Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin, that make this a fascinating album.
Things kick off with "El Teatro" (The Theater), which the guitarist wrote for a girl friend who was an actress. After an ensemble statement of the suitably dramatic theme, Sipiagin plays a solo that is a model of understated passion. He's followed by Bienvenido Dinzey on piano and David Sanchez on tenor before Vicéns comes in with some nicely crafted lines that here and there echo Jim Hall
and Joe Pass
, two of the guitarists he most admires.
The title track moves along nicely and includes what sounds like some collective improvisation by the front line.
"Morph" is Vicéns' take on vampires and werewolves, specifically "the moment they morph into that other thingI find that really interesting." There's some very nice work by Sipiagin on this one and Vicéns' own solo is quiet and thoughtful, underpinned nicely by Dinzey and drummer Leonardo Osuna.
The standout track is "Amintiri," Romanian for "Memories." This andperhaps more soits "Prelude" provide the leader with a chance to display his lyricism. Vicéns says, "I wrote it a couple of years ago for a Romanian girl I had a crush on."
"Doing Circles" is based on an image that came to him of people moving into a circle and jumping around in "some kind of spiritual ritual." He says, "It's dark but there's also hope and peace. I write a lot while thinking in an image or movie in my head."
The up-tempo "Justice," which closes proceedings, sometimes gets just that little bit too driving and relentless for comfort. The song, and the album as a whole, could have benefitted from a little humor, from not taking itself so seriously. But you can't have everything, can you?
El Teatro; Days; Morph; Prelude to Amintiri; Amintiri; Doing Circles; Comprehend; Breaking Through Shadows; Justice.
Gabriel Vicens: guitar; Jonathan Suazo: alto saxophone; David Sanchez: tenor saxophone; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet and
flugelhorn; Bienvenido Dinzey: piano; Dan Martinez: bass; Leonardo Osuna: drums; Paoli Mejias: congas and shaker.