You may have attended a concert by vibraphonist Gary Burton or guitarist Pat Metheny and, like many others found yourself unable to keep from focusing your attention on the drummer, Antonio Sanchez. His presence, exudes a sort of rhythmic magnetism that has backed players such as Chick Corea, Miguel Zenon, and Metheny for the past 13 years.
When he releases a disc as leader playing his original compositions, his full arsenal is on display. New Life follows the double-disc Live In New York (CAM Jazz, 2010) recorded at Jazz Standard in 2008. Sticking with a two-horn front, Sanchez employs tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin and alto saxophonist David Binney plus, here he includes everybody's newly discovered piano genius, John Escreet to his rhythm section along with bassist Matt Brewer, the 2009 winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz competition.
With Escreet in the line up, Sanchez' compositions take precedence over simply a blowing session. "Uprising and Revolutions" opens the disc as a simmering ballad that simmers, parboils, then roils with turbulent energies as Binney, McCaslin and Escreet push up against the swirling cauldron continually stirred by Sanchez. "Medusa" is a befitting vehicle for the two saxophonists to tangle, McCaslin's jocularity versus Binney's probing thrusts. Sanchez' controlled energy allows his band to expand their sounds without boundary. The funkiness of "The Real McDaddy" opens as two horns and drums alone, then spins itself into something that could be mistaken for a Curtis Mayfield tune covered by Tower Of Power. With Escreet's playing Fender Rhodes piano here and on "Minotaro," the band morphs into a groove heavy party band.
But wait, there's more. Sanchez delivers a thoughtful blues ballad with "Nighttime Story" and the centerpiece of the album is the title track. At nearly 15 minutes, the song is a nod to Metheny with the wordless vocals of Thana Alexa and ever expanding composition. Rarely does a studio-created album beg for a live performance, as New Life does.
Uprising and Revolutions; Minotaur; New Life; Nighttime Story; Medusa; The Real McDaddy; Air; Family Ties.
Antonio Sanchez: drums, vocals, additional keyboards; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone;
David Binney: alto saxophone; John Escreet: piano, fender rhodes; Matt Brewer: acoustic bass,
electric bass; Thana Alexa: vocals (3).
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