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Mariano Diaz Quartet: Plan B

Ken Kase By

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Originally from Argentina, pianist Mariano Diaz is part of a growing circle of accomplished jazz musicians based in Spain. As a pianist and composer, Diaz's approach is assertive and rhythmically dense, and Plan B contains a breadth of settings and moods. The cohesiveness between the musicians and the material make this disc a worthwhile listen.

Among the quartet's most striking qualities is the seemingly effortless penchant for interesting rhythmic interaction which pervades the entire disc. Given Diaz's spirited, intensely rhythmic approach to playing and composition, his choice of cohorts is a natural extension of his own strengths.

Drummer Marc Miralta seems to have a telepathic relationship with the pianist's left hand, creating a strikingly precise and rigorous yet never overbearing rhythmic undertow. Their version of Coltrane's "Moment's Notice"—a challenging enough piece structurally and harmonically—is made all the more compelling by their collective drift between time signatures.

The Monk-inspired "Peonza" swings loosely with tight clusters of notes that spill and spit with disruptive glee. Even at more relaxed tempos, the feeling of the rhythm section appropriates a subtle inner tension, as on "Plan B" and "No Duche." A solo piano ballad, "Charly," shows Diaz's considerable range.

"Zuco De Iaranja" and "Hi Steppers" highlight alto saxophonist Penco Sambeat's sure-footed tone and rhythmic flexibility. His sound on soprano is lyrical and warm, especially on "No Duche," a pensive waltz, and "Plan B," which is downright pretty.

Bassist Mario Rossy displays a particularly nice touch on a surprisingly good version of Lennon/McCartney's "And I Love Her," stating the theme in a whisper and allowing the other musicians considerable breathing space, giving this well-worn "standard" a breath of fresh air.

For all the fine performances, compositions and arrangements on this album, it is puzzling that the quartet's sound seems a bit restrained. Precision would be a fair trade for audacity, as the shimmer and gloss in these performances makes one yearn for a bit of dirt and imperfection. Perhaps that grit and passion comes through when hearing the quartet live. But "Plan B" is a fine disc that is sure to shed light on a growing pool of capable musicians on Spanish shores who are deserving of consideration.

Track Listing: Zuco De Iaranja; Charly; No Duche; Moment's Notice; Plan B; Peonza; And I Love Her; Hi Steppers.

Personnel: Mariano Diaz: piano; Penco Sambeat: alto and soprano saxophone; Mario Rossy: bass; Marc Miralta: drums.

Title: Plan B | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: SJazz

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