A marriage of moody yet calming piano seesaws, cymbal swells, and arco bass serves as the entry portal into pianist Marta Sanchez's Partenika. The feelings that come over the mind and body while taking in those overlaid ingredients during the opening of "Opening" must be like what Dorothy felt when she awoke in Oz or what Alice must have experienced when she went down the rabbit hole: in other words, it's like waking up to a whole new and wondrous world.
The spellbinding experience that unfolds at the dawn of "Opening" is but one of many on Partenika. The second number on the program"Patella Dislocation"offers another. After a rhythmically pointed and disjointed start, Sanchez and company enter an ethereal realm mid-track, only to be drawn back out as the rhythm section reforms around Jerome Sabbagh's saxophone. Then there's the title track, a piece influenced by Greek street music, with a probing introductory solo from bassist Sam Anning and the spotlight firmly placed on Sabbagh and alto saxophonist Roman Filiu; "Balada Del Momento," a harmonically sophisticated ballad-of-a-sort that's haunted and hazy and colored with maroon hues; and, a hair further down the line, "Andy," another ballad that alternately offers resolute thoughts and fragile feelings.
Sanchez clearly has no problem letting things go adrift, demonstrated repeatedly as she paints wide canvases with complex colors and emotions. But listeners shouldn't be fooled into thinking that this is shadowy music without shape. Sanchez and her musical companions also show determination and rhythmic focus in much of their work. Sabbagh draws the perfect picture of strength meeting elegance during "Andy," Sanchez shows her Spanish roots during her glee-fueled solo on the spry and invigorating "Yayyyyy," and drummer Jason Burger provides some hip groove work that outlines the curvy road on the album-ending "El Paso De Los Anos."
Partenika is an extremely enjoyable record that never goes to extremes. The more driven material never pushes too hard and the ballads are never mired in the depths of melancholy. Marta Sanchez always manages to strike a fine balance in her work, whether delivering a solid state song or something a bit more shapeless in nature, and in the center of it all is her striking and seductive piano work.
Opening; Patella Dislocation; Partenika; Balada Del Momento; Yayyy; Andy; Small Game; El Paso De Los Anos.
Jerome Sabbagh: tenor saxophone; Roman Filiu: alto saxophone; Marta Sanchez: piano; Sam Anning: bass; Jason Burger: drums.
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