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Alex Conde: Origins

Mark Sullivan By

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Spanish pianist/composer Alex Conde has roots in flamenco, but his influences range widely through Afro-Cuban and American jazz idioms. He is now based in New York City, a place with a pool of musicians ideally suited to the musical blend he creates. The "origins" of the title refer to all of the pianist's roots, which he freely combines in a true fusion. On his previous album Descarga For Monk (Zoho Music, 2015) he interpreted Thelonious Monk compositions; here he features original compositions, along with a couple of flamenco standards.

The opener, "Bulerijazz," acts as a compact statement of purpose, a combination of bulería (a fast flamenco rhythm in 12) with a three-horn jazz brass section (in the tradition of Art Blakey's The Jazz Messengers), complete with a quote from Duke Ellington's classic fusion composition "Caravan." It also features the first appearance of guest guitarist Andres Abenante, who contributes an energetic, over-driven solo. "Upper West Side" really demonstrates Conde's brilliant pianistic technique, and not for the last time. But there's plenty of space for the other players as well, as trumpeter Brian Lynch turns in a fine solo, also not for the last time.

"Spring Break" includes a tenor saxophone solo from Dayna Stephens, as well as an expansive, rhythmic solo from the leader. "La Leyenda Del Tiempo" (one of the two selections not composed by Conde) is the first vocal feature for Ismael Fernández, accompanied by a strong brass section—who also alternate solos (including a feature for trombonist Conrad Herwig). "Jungle Street" fully embraces salsa, with a composition inspired by legendary pianist/composer Eddie Palmieri.

"The Great Priest" puts the spotlight on bassist Luques Curtis, who plays the lyrical head accompanied only by the rhythm section. "El Emigrante" (the other cover tune) gets two arrangements: the first with vocalist Alejandro Conde Sr. (Alex's father), the second an instrumental version with the piano taking the lead role. "Descarga Por Bulerías" is a jam session on the bulería rhythm, including a trombone solo, an especially strong soprano saxophone solo from Stephens, an Abenante guitar solo, and—last but not least—a splendid unaccompanied showcase for drummer Marcus Gilmore.

Origins is a tremendous calling card for Alex Conde as composer and pianist. But it's also a demonstration of the adaptability of Latin jazz, as the genre readily accepts Conde's flamenco influences. Easily recommended to Latin jazz fans, with the additional spice of a fresh Spanish flavor.

Track Listing: Bulerijazz; Upper West Side; Spring Break; La Leyenda Del Tiempo; Jungle Street; The Great Priest; El Emigrante; Soleà De Ismael; Descarga Por Bulerías; El Emigrante Instrumental.

Personnel: Alex Conde: piano, keyboards; Guillermo Barrón: cajón; Luques Curtis: bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Conrad Herwig: trombone; Brian Lynch: trumpet; Dayna Stephens: tenor sax, soprano sax; Andrés Abenante: guitar (1,4,5,9); John Benítez: electric bass (1,2,9); Alejandro Conde Sr.: vocal (7); Ismael Fernández: vocal (4,8); Camilo Molina: timbal (5); Frank Abenante & Isabel Abenante: palmas.

Title: Origins | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Uprising/Ropeadope

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