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Jelly Roll Morton was once quoted as saying that truly authentic jazz had a certain "Spanish tinge" to it. Playing On Light: 7 Sounding Photos, and indeed many of the growing number of new and interesting releases coming from Spain, make that a difficult statement to disprove.
Playing On Light is the fourth release by Abe Rabade, a talented pianist from Galicia, Spain, and his third release heading up a trio. Each of the seven compositions is based on a series of photographs (reproduced in the accompanying booklet) by artists such as Arno Rafael Minkkinen and Paul Caponigro, making this a concept album of sorts.
Rabade's compositions are sprawling and meticulously fleshed out. "Eses" is loaded with what he does best: tight arrangements, unexpected shifts in tempo and texture and rich, broad chord voicings. There's even a hint of Miles' "So What" modality as Rabade subtly evokes the past while projecting an original and highly personal sound. "Nomadas" is haunting and dark, with a lovely statement of the melody and solo by bassist Paco Charlin. Charlin and Rabade even go electric on "Inner Battle," creating a subtle but assertive Latin groove with more than a hint of dynamic contrast.
"Avalancha" is a restless up-tempo swing number that features a shredding but thoughtful solo from Rabade and a featured spot for drummer Bruno Pedroso. But one of the most stunning tracks comes at the very end. "Bright Flow" begins and ends with solo piano, bookending a dynamic performance from the trio which seemlessly bounces back and forth between 3/4 and 5/4 timea very fitting conclusion to a significant collection of fine songcraft and carefully honed interplay among all three musicians.
Rabade is every bit as accomplished a composer as he is a pianist, and Playing On Light shows how seamlessly his talents blend together to create some fine music. This disc may be hard to find, but it's definitely worth the effort.