Luis Muňoz's Luz is an unabashedly romantic paean to Latin music in its various guises. There is, however, nothing syrupy in this enchanting seventh release for the Costa Rican composer and percussionist, replete with "jazzy" creative spontaneity.
Muňoz's impressionistic compositions are carefully arranged around a central theme, allowing adequate space to spotlight individual side musicians. The exquisite tango "Amarilis" features violinist Laura Hackstein's wistfully passionate strings as she plays the head with Astor Piazzolla-like flair. Pianist Adam Asarnow's lilting solo embellishes the melody with intelligent musical twists while maintaining its integrity. Trumpeter Jonathan Dane's burnished yet dark tone blows over the scene like an autumnal breeze.
Dane, having played behind many a vocalist and being one himself, anticipates and properly reacts to singer Magos Herrerra evocative articulation of the lush ballad "Testamento/Mas Alla." This haunting piece, with samba rhythms, is dedicated to Muňoz's wife, Holly Ann. Muňoz's own atmospheric percussion and pianist George Friedenthal's sparse notes frame Herrerra's elegant delivery and sensual voice. Dane's dusky, cool horn is in perfect contrast to Herrerra's ardent writing.
Muňoz also showcases the uniquely talented guitarist and songstress Téka Penteriche. The Sao Paolo native's honeyed and smoky vocals and expressive interpretation give the bossa nova "Al Silencio" an engaging and mysterious feel. Muňoz's own brushed drums and Friedenthal's careful utilization of silence and sound further enhance the ambience.
Friedenthal's short, unaccompanied sonata, "Preludio," is intensely lyrical and deeply contemplative. His edgy approach contrasts nicely with Asarnow's more flowing lines as the two take turns soloing on the sublime waltz, "Vals de la Luz," which also highlights guitarist Christopher Judge's classically influenced improvisations, while Gilberto González (another guitarist) closes this delightful record on a high note with his Mexican folk-inspired duet with marimba virtuoso John Nathan.
With this sublime and intriguing work, Muňoz not only demonstrates his adroitness as a composer and a bandleader but also his skill at recognizing and nurturing talent.
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.
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).