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Matt Otto with Ensemble Iberica: Iberica

Dan McClenaghan By

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Saxophonist Matt Otto presents the ambitious Iberica, a trip into the sounds of music from the Iberian Peninsula—Spain and Portugal. Ensemble Iberica joins him, a guitar trio that adds—in addition to their guitars—the cavaquinto, the oud, and the Cuban tres, crafting a delicate yet expansive soundscape in this tranquil, flowing, chamber jazz outing.

This is Otto's first Origin Records outing since 2005's Red, a superb quartet recording, featuring the tenor saxophonist with a guitar/bass/drums rhythm section. Iberica has a similar, cool mood—Otto's creative vision is finely focused, and unwavering, from Red through several excellent outings on Jazz Collective Records. The addition of the multiple guitarists, along with Brad Cox on Fender Rhodes and effects, Karl McComas-Reichl on bass and cello, and steel guitarist Mike Stover, wrap Otto's measured chamber approach in a beautiful lushness, diaphanous and understated, full of graceful harmonics and delicate, shimmering beauty.

Its not an orchestra, but Iberica sounds like the best of the jazz-with-strings genre, similar to, though more restrained and contemplative than Stan Getz' work with Eddie Sauter—especially Focus (Verve Records, 1961)—or Michael Brecker's Cityscape (Warner Brothers, 1982), with composer/arranger Claus Ogerman. Ensemble Iberica is exquisite in its contributions, but much credit has to go to the sweet, encompassing sustain of Stover's steel guitar, and keyboardist Cox's deft yet subtle Rhodes and effects work.

This is enchanting, luminous music. It sounds as if Matt Otto set out to create unalloyed beauty, and succeeded.

Track Listing: Elm; Viewed In; Jennifer; St. Paul; Langston; Iberica; Echolalia; Du Bois; John Henry; July Fourth; Ayler.

Personnel: Matt Otto: tenor saxophone; Ensemble Iberica: Beau Blesdoe: guitar, oud; Jordan Shipley: guitar, cavaquinho; Michael McClintock: electric guitar, Cuban tres, acoustic bass guitar. Brad Cox: Rhodes, effects; Karl McComas-Reichl: bass, cello; steel guitar.

Title: Iberica | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Origin Records

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