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Luis Muñoz: Luz

James Nadal By

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Akin to wind and rain, music can no longer be confined or characterized by geography; it knows no borders and wanders free. In the case of Latin America, music has gone full circle in that jazz musicians initially sought inspiration and ideas from the United States, but are now realizing that their own regional cultures can be an encouraging source from which to to draw. Costa Rican-born Luis Muñoz—an award winning drummer, arranger, composer, and producer—is one that has never strayed far from his roots. Though he has studied, performed and recorded in the States, with the release of Luz, he further endeavors to compose music based on Hispanic influences, while weaving elements of improvisation masterfully into the mix.

The music on Luz was composed with the concept of illumination in mind— not necessarily the literal translation, but the more spiritual connotation. Muñoz deftly creates a perceptible sense of tranquility interlaced with romantic sensuality, which is prerequisite in Latin music. This is obvious with his choice of Brazilian vocalist Téka Penteriche, who sings "El Sueño de Adán" and "Al Silencio," and Mexican songstress Magos Herrera, featured on "Testamento/Mas Alla." These are smoldering ballads singed with Jonathan Dane's melancholic trumpet. Dane must be given further recognition for his muted cornet on "Invisible," and his soaring trumpeting on "El Sendero de las Aves," which is an Afro-Caribbean number complete with authentic bata drums.

There is a mysterious convocation of the tango in "Amarilis," where violinist Laura Hackstein sets the perfect mood for pianist Adam Asarnow to enhance the extended dance, graced by a gaucho-colored trumpet. This track is perfectly situated in the center of the record as if a melodious summit has to be reached in order to continue on the forgiving journey. Another highlight is the waltz "Vals de la Luz," which displays a smooth interaction of classical guitar and pianos. On this song Asarnow shares solo duties with fellow pianist George Friedenthal, with Muñoz adding a soft background track.

Muñoz is a sophisticated composer who researched and rehearsed his material well, and conveys a populist approach to his music while maintaining a flair for elegance. Luz is a comfortable record, an indication of a relaxed production, evidence to the adage of doing what you know best..

Track Listing: El Sueño de Adán; Invisible; Amarilis; Al Silencio; El Sendero de las Aves; Vals de la Luz; Preludio; Testamento/Mas Alla; Entre El Mar y la Tristeza.

Personnel: Luis Muñoz: drums, percussion, background vocals, piano (2-6); Adam Asarnow: piano (1-3, 6); George Friedenthal: piano (4- 8); Tom Etchart: acoustic bass; Jonothan Dane: trumpet, cornet (2); Téka Penteriche: lead vocal (1, 4); Magos Herrera: lead vocal (8); Bill Flores: pedal steel guitar (2); Laura Hackenstein: violin (3); Narciso Sotomayor: acoustic guitar (3); Carlomagno Araya: drums (5); Ramses Araya: bata drums (5); Tom Buckner: tenor sax (5); Christopher Judge: acoustic guitar (6, 8); Gilberto Gonzalez: acoustic guitar (9); John Nathan: marimba (9).

Title: Luz | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Pelin Music

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