Josep Soto is a Barcelona-based composer and guitarist of immense promise. Groc
comes not long after Parabolico
(PICAP, 2001), which featured reedman Paquito D'Rivera
and won European acclaim, getting nominated for a Latin Grammy
when it hit the ground in the US two years later. Groc
is an unusual record. It is Josep Soto's not-so-secret and masterful way of acknowledging the collision of Spanish music with the music of cultures that Spain, Portugal and other Latin countries set out to influence when they colonized the New World. Uniquely, the Spanish music that Soto has experienced grew and cross-pollinated with Argentinean, Brazilian, Cuban and Latin American cultures that had, in turn been burnished with the vitality of African rhythms.
Soto has created a record that cuts a wide swathe around the world of Latin music, with a focal point in Spain, where his own musical experience appears to have grown from. With this as the concept of the record, the guitarist has clothed the music with the swing of delight. This is the swing of jazz. And it is this idiom that Soto has mastered as well. The music on the record describes the roadmap from Spain to Latin America and the Afro-Cuban landscape, indelibly etched in jazz today.
This session bustles with sound that is both unique and exciting. From the very first track, "Flamen-Q," which is a fusion of the Spanish, Afro-Brazilian and Afro-American idioms to Cuban and other Latin rumbas as well as the Argentinean tangos, Groc
traverses a world map. "Cherubitango" is a masterful deconstruction of the tango, recast with a slightly expanded soundscape that includes additional strings to enhance the quartet sound. The title track is a rumba with exquisite soloing from Xavier Figuerola on clarinet and electric guitarist Guillermo Carrizo.
The music appears to have been written around Josep Soto's triothe very funky bassist Cristian Gruner and percussionist extraordinaire Cidon Trindade. Gruner does a star turn on "Flamen-Q" and "Groc," and Trindade often sounds like three drummers. The trio music is, on several tracks, expanded for up to 13 musicians, and achieves a true big band sound. Soto's arrangements are wonderfully interpreted by the string section as well as by Figuerola Berta Gassull's oboe. But the real star is, of course, Soto, who brings the fluidity of Baden Powell
and the technique and virtuosity of guitar masters from Andalusia and Cordoba to Brasil and Cuba. "Alma," "Tu Vals," a swaying waltz, and "Un Ou" are fine examples of Josep Soto's wonderful technique and virtuosity.
It would be interesting indeed to see what new ground Soto will cover, now that he has established credentials as a composer, virtuoso guitarist and master of the polyrhythmic idioms of Afro, Latin and jazz. Here is a guitarist who has made waves not unlike those made by Charlie Hunter
, when he brought his fluid lines to the sound of the instrument.