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The Latin Jazz Corner Reviews Samuel Quinto Trio's "Salsa N Jazz"

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Samuel Quinto Trio
Salsa N Jazz
(2009, Self Produced)

When a pianist leads a trio, they inherit an enormous musical responsibility; for the most part, the core foundation of the ensembles sound lies in their musical personality. Their repertoire choices make strong statements about their background and aesthetic preferences while original compositions open the door to their artistic identity. Each detail of the arrangements need to be structured around the pianist--their strengths, weaknesses, and their fundamental approach to jazz must be considered. They need to present each songs melody with a unique twist that signals their personal stamp while keeping the main theme identifiable. The pianist needs to play with a distinctive and identifiable style that sets them apart from the long number of musicians that have led trios. They must display musical mastery in their improvisations, keeping extended statements interesting and meaningful while thinking about the songs overall shape. At the same time, they need to provide space for their fellow musicians to express themselves. When the group dives into a Latin context, the pianist must find a way to fulfill these functions without loosing the rhythmic propulsion usually provided by the piano. It takes diversity, a variety of approaches, and a lot of bravery to keep a full piano trio album interesting; success in this endeavor places the artist in a strong position, while failure makes them forgettable. Pianist Samuel Quinto leads his trio with a bold and enthusiastic personality on Salsa N Jazz, delivering an exciting set that successfully explores a variety of approaches and influences.

Showing Authority On Up-tempo Tracks

Quinto attacks several tracks with an undeniable authority, fueling each up-tempo song with an impressive display of chops, musicality, and clave-fueled intensity. Quinto storms into Jaci with a ferocious montuno before creating a strong contrast with a distinctly understated melody. The rhythm section breaks the groove with a free flowing section that Quinto uses to transition into a spellbinding solo over a driving groove. After a dramatic return to the main melody, Quinto revisits the original montuno while drummer Manuel Santiesteban leaps into a quick and exciting improvisation. Quinto stretches across a lushly developed unaccompanied solo on the introduction to Salsa N Jazz until the rhythm section jumps into a powerful momentum behind the active melody. Syncopated rhythms, rapid flights of notes, and quick montuno snippets wrap around band hits as Quinto creates an engaging and energetic statement. Santiesteban enthusiastically builds a statement around Quintos strong montuno, integrating classic licks into the drum kit with a creative flair. Quinto ebulliently winds streaming lines over an up-tempo swing introduction on the standard Stella By Starlight before he twists through interesting rhythmic alterations over a songo rhythm. Quinto cleverly inserts short two-chords vamps between each trip through the main chord changes, allowing him to embellish his solo with bluesy phrases. The rhythm section really shines throughout the track, defining the form with a long list of feel changes and sharp breaks that give Quinto a steady and evolving foundation. In this setting, Quinto shows an exhilarating side to his musicianship, revealing the ability to create powerful statements over high-energy material.

Displaying A Wide Expressive Range

Quinto's performance abilities hold a wide expressive range though, and he displays a more subdued side on other pieces. The rhythm section provides a gentle swing ballad foundation behind Quinto on Bolero To Preta, allowing him the space to create an elegantly simple melodic presentation. Santiesteban moves into a more traditional bolero rhythm while Quinto raises his dynamic into a focused intensity with huge lush passages. An inventive side to Quintos musicianship appears as he revisits the melody, embellishing it with huge harmonic flourishes and subtle rhythmic changes. Santiesteban provides a short preview of the groove before Quinto authoritively plays the melody on Vo Da Andorinha, a distinguished and intricate chorinho. As he enters his improvisation, Quinto wisely maintains the songs feel, capturing the rhythmic element with a clear precision while building new melodies that resonate with a bluesy undertone. The main theme returns with a heightened sense of importance and a more assertive momentum, revealing the groups keen attention to form. The group converges around an understated sense of melancholy on Isabel with Quintos quiet melody and the rhythm sections delicate balance between a jazz ballad and a straight bolero. Quinto develops his improvisation with long lush melodies, drowning in waves of harmonic richness. Each member of the group compliments the overall song with a unified approach and unwavering support, resulting in a poetic beauty. These pieces present a distinct contrast, providing a more intimate showcase for Quinto, who shines with thoughtful musicianship.

A Mixed Bag of Influences

Quinto diversifies his repertoire on the remaining songs, presenting a mixed bag of influences that confirm the depth of his knowledge. The group mixes a funky groove with a cha cha cha on the bluesy Quintos Rhumba, recalling shades of Herbie Hancock and Mongo Santamaria. Rolling through the changes with a combination of trills, repeated blues lines, quick runs, and syncopated rhythms, Quinto creates a fun and catchy statement filled with excitement. Bassist Marcos Borges and Santiesteban trade short improvised ideas, playing off the funk feel with an enthusiastic commitment. Quinto and Borges ride a sparse groove over rumba clave on Ficou No Meio before the pianist dives into a melody that winds through son montuno and Brazilian baio rhythms. As he leaps into his improvisation, he covers diverse territory, implying Cuban timba with a quasi-breakdown, placing catchy lines over the baio, and watching over the proceedings with a dramatic flair. After a return to the melody, Quinto settles into a steady montuno as Santiesteban and Borges each take turns at quick improvisatory statements. Kalimba Mulle opens with unison runs, sharp rhythm section attacks, a flowing melody, and dips into rich harmony that establish a serious mood. As the group moves into the solo cycle, Quinto switches to kalimba for an interesting transition into an engaging solo characterized by quirky offset rhythms. Borges displays his electric bass skills with a funky solo that utilizes sharp slaps until Santiesteban takes the group back to the melody with a quick solo statement. Quinto shows extensive range through these tracks, giving the impression that his musicianship can guide him through any setting.

The Emergence Of A New Piano Stylist

Quinto guides his trio through Salsa N Jazz with a fiery passion, firmly based upon his broad musicianship and accomplished performance skills. As a pianist, Quinto repeatedly displays highly developed technical abilities, a deep knowledge of harmony, and a keen insight into melodic creation. His improvisations scream with a fiery spontaneity and a jazz intensity while his melodic interpretations reflect a thoughtful and reflective musician. He often reveals a strong Michel Camilo influence with bits of Chick Corea and Chucho Valdes thrown into the mix. Quinto has built upon these references extensively though, forging his own voice through a creative investigation of these musicians. His compositions serve as perfect showcases for his skills, displaying the wide range of his musicianship in full view. He manages to prioritize expression throughout his writing, mixing his extensive technical ability with well-constructed ideas. Santiesteban and Borges act as an ideal rhythm section behind Quintos strong musical personality. They unobtrusively support his work at every turn, making musical choices that benefit each song. When given the opportunity to step into the spotlight, they appear as solid soloists with distinct personalities. With all these elements in place, Quinto holds the weight of the trio upon his shoulders with style and ease on Salsa N Jazz, strongly declaring the emergence of a new piano stylist.

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