In certain musical occasions the essence of time is more vividly pronounced than others. That equation is often pronounced clearly in the technique of how a drummer applies various rhythms, and the resulting effect those metrics have on a song or project.
Drummer Diego Pinera is a widely travelled percussionist from Uruguay, currently based in Berlin. His second release on the German-based ACT label demonstrates a vast range of compositional skills recorded during one brief, extremely productive session that took place over the course of a single day in 2020 in New Jersey. While the project may not be entirely flawless, it comes pretty damn close during a stretch of ten mostly distinctive cuts with a running time of around fifty-six minutes.
Pinera enlisted three excellent collaborators who contribute immensely. Foremost of these is saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who stands out on numerous pieces enough that it wouldn't be wrong to give him co-billing, if not for the singularly impressive fact that Pinera wrote almost the entire album. The exception to that compositional credit is a nice, closing version of "Blue Monk," by Thelonious Monk, an extended coda on which everybody shines. Accordingly, Pinera could have added similar color-based designations to his own songs, which inspire and enhance very distinct moods.
The opening "Clave Tune" gives a solid indication of what Pinera picked up as a student in Havana, taking Afro-Cuban beats into his own orbit, while he and McCaslin shift cadence in scintillating swirls that set the tone for many changes to come. Ben Monder adds guitar accents as if Charlie Christian were cloned for an acid flashback "way back machine" trip to Minton's historic club. The following cut, "Domingo," expands on an unpredictable pace that is probably the album's primary calling card. Scott Colley's bass is more pronounced on the synthesized "Robotic Night," an immediately engaging stop and go, cosmic shuffle of wildly warped percussive effects. "Space" switches the vibe for a bluesy ballad with effectively engaging vocals, presumably by Pinera (uncredited) in his native language, and "Mi Cosmos" is fragmented with bright bits of bop.
McCaslin swoops and soars in a trio of sax, bass, and drums on "Away," and the same threesome combo are re-combined on "De Madrugada." If some of Pinera's polyrhythms aren't multi-tracked then he's either a true wizard or he has four arms. The sax is silent as equally intense axes and sticks comprise "Easter in Puglia." Promotional material indicates the tunes cover a comprehensive catalogue of Pinera's musical experience over the years, balanced by the spontaneous team energy that the limited in-studio time inspired. What emerged is a powerful testimony to the advanced synergy they created one early February day. The quartet definitely put that time to good use. The same goes for those who might invest their time in listening, a choice both unusual and wise. The energy resonates.
Clave Tune; Domingo; Conversation With Myself; Robotic Night; Mi Cosmos; Space; Away; De Madrugada;
Easter in Puglia; Blue Monk.
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