As everything we see and hear is no more or less than a snapshot in time, it is easy to forget that many of our brightest jazz stars once shined their light on campuses and in classrooms from coast to coast while honing their budding skills. Pianist Jesus Fuentes is one such scholar, the album Liminality: Live at Smith 25 his doctoral degree recital, and Smith 25 the room in Smith Memorial Hall where it was recorded in November 2020 (the name of the school is not given). Ordinarily, the room would have been filled with students, teachers, family and friends, but the coronavirus pandemic made that impossible, so what we have is a socially distanced quartet playing to an empty room, recorded via Fuentes' portable recorder and single microphone.
Presumably, every member of the quartet is (or was) a fellow student. They are saxophonist Matthew Storie, bassist Andrew Binder and drummer Maxwell Osawa. The relatively concise thirty-five-minute recital consists of four songs, two by Fuentes and one each by Antonio Carlos Jobim ("So Tinha de ser Com Voce") and McCoy Tyner ("Passion Dance"). The opener, Fuentes' blues "Tren Azul," bears more than passing resemblance to Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." The quartet is reduced to a trio on "So Tinha," as Storie takes a break on that charming samba. The virile "Passion Dance" is well-suited to Fuentes' two-handed chordal approach, as is the straight-ahead "Va de Nuez," which embodies Storie's best solo, several swinging choruses by Fuentes and sturdy back-up from Binder and Osawa. Fuentes is more melodic but no less assured on "Tren Azul" and "So Tinha de ser Com Voce."
For what it isa student recital in a vacant hallLiminality is quite effective and engaging. The quartet is well-rehearsed, the material above average (including Fuentes' originals). The presumption here is that Jesus Fuentes is now "Dr. Fuentes."
Tren Azul; Só Tinha De Ser Com Você; Passion Dance; Va de Nuez
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