Manuel Gutierrez has built up a sizeable discography, but he's not previously released an album under his own name. Illa Da Lua
is his debut as leader, but it's worth noting that the cover gives equal prominence to his rhythm section partners, bassist Tom Warburton
and drummer Dani Dominguez. It's a fair share of the credits, for while Gutierrez wrote all of the tunes, this is very much a collaborative recording.
The 40 year old Spanish pianist has long been associated with blues singer and guitarist Victor Aneiros and with Galician jazz trio Summrá. He's also a member of guitarist Marcos Pin
's big band, Factor-E Reset. Illa Da Lua
is a straight-ahead jazz piano trio album, closer to the sound of Summrá than it is to Aneiros' work or to Pin's large ensemble. A wholly acoustic line-up, without recourse to electronic fripperies, the three musicians impress both with their technical skill and their emotional connection to the music.
The opening three tunes form a showcase for the trio's swinging, bop-ish attack. "Analoxia" is characterized by an urgency and drive, coming mostly from Dominguez' cymbals which do at times rather overwhelm the piano. "Starting Point" is a more complex tune, moving from Gutierrez' unaccompanied, angular, introduction into an energetic ensemble mid-section before returning to the calmness of the solo piano. "Serie B" gets a particularly bouncy rhythmic foundation for Gutierrez' angular, assertive, lead line, with its hints of Thelonious Monk
The graceful title track and its successor, "Bagoas na Chuvia," form a restful centerpiece. "Reincidente" closes the album with a combination of hard-edged groove and melodic swing. There's tension in the tune as well, adding a dramatic flourish to the trio's sound. As a whole, Illa Da Lua
is a varied and engaging work. Gutierrez' compositions are immediately accessible yet still rewarding to repeated listening.