The captivating and cinematic Dice of Tenors is Portugese saxophonist César Cardoso's fourth release as a leader. Cardoso has brought together an international octet of accomplished musicians for an eight track tribute to six saxophone giants including John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, and Benny Golson. In addition to six standards either penned or popularized by these legendary tenorists, there are two Cardoso originals which are in the same spirit as the covers.
Cardoso's haunting "Rafaela" is constructed out of dynamic and intricately interwoven melodic fragments. The horns and bassist Demian Cabaud's con arco lines create a hypnotic ambience over drummer Marcos Cavaleiro's understated, rumbling beats. Further enhancing this dramatic tension are the passionate and expansive exchanges between brass and woodwinds which, under Cardoso's leadership, sound intimate yet orchestral. Trumpeter Jason Palmer crafts an intelligent and lyrical solo which shimmers with burnished tones. Cardoso follows with his incandescent and meandering improvisation. Both venture far from the main theme yet remain within its purview.
Similarly enthralling is saxophonist Sonny Rollins's classic "St. Thomas." Cabaud and Cavaleiro create an angular framework within which the band lets loose wistful refrains. As the rhythms grow freer, vibraphonist Jeffery Davis brings the group together with an effervescent cadence. The melody unfurls with exuberance tinged with melancholy. Trombonist Massimo Morganti embellishes the tune with clever whimsy and elegant agility. Pianist Oscar Graça builds a crystalline extemporization with his resonant cascades of chiming notes. Altoist Miguel Zenon takes center stage with an imaginative soliloquy made up of sinewy lines and brimming with vibrant poetry.
Cardoso is a superlative and consummate artist and a brilliant composer-arranger. His small body of work is uniformly superb and Dice of Tenors is, perhaps, his best recording to date. His balanced approach to directing the ensemble, writing and spontaneous creativity endows this album with an absorbing atmosphere reminiscent of a film soundtrack. Certainly his own mastery of the tenor as well as the virtuosity of his bandmates further contribute to making Dice of Tenors a delight to listen to again and again.
Along Came Betty; Remember; Rafaela; Three O'Clock In The Morning; Giant Steps; Recorda-Me;
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