In recent years, pianist Angelica Sanchez has quietly become a sought-after player. In groups led by drummer Susie Ibarra and saxophonist Bill McHenry, plus her own quartets, her thoughtful playing and careful listening accentuates the music. Mirror Me, her debut as a leader, showcases Sanchez's piano playing and original compositions. Joining her are musical cohorts saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey (the three often perform as a trio) and bassist Michael Formanek.
The opening tune, "Fresh Hell," sets the tone for the rest of the CD. It opens with a Malaby and Sanchez duet, their lines swirling around each other until the rhythm section joins and propels the quartet to the tightly syncopated head. Malaby then launches into a powerful solo, the first of many on the CD, before a variation on the theme is stated and Sanchez takes her turn. Throughout the song, the ever-inventive Rainey colors the solos, alternating between wooden and metallic sounds with careful dynamics. The cymbals are especially crisp, allowing his sticking patterns to stand out.
Group interplay is featured throughout Mirror Me, especially on the slower tunes, such as "Thorns" and "Weirdo." Here the musicians take their time to fully explore the possibilities of the music, employing a range of textures and solos that build from the melodic movements. The title tune has a beautiful melody stated first by Malaby and then aptly mirrored by Sanchez. Another highlight is "Tragïn," an up-tempo piece that features a vibrant solo from Formanek, who utilizes the upper register of the bass before settling into a fast groove. The other fast tunes, "Quick Tipper" and "Ajo Comino," show the empathy between the musicians.
Mirror Me was beautifully recorded, and each player is well-placed in the mix. Sanchez's compositions and the players she has chosen provide a wonderful debut that rewards attentive listening.