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Gabriel Vicens: Point in Time

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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On Point In Time, his debut date as a leader, Puerto Rican guitarist Gabriel Vicéns heads a solid quintet of young players, considerably bolstered by a couple of A-list substitutions from the highest echelons of Puerto Rican jazz: tenor saxophonist David Sanchez on a pair of tracks, and bassist Eddie Gomez on about half the record.

Vicéns' guitar is ringing and clear, relying on relatively low-tech reverb. His personality as an improviser is already sure and well-defined; he is not tempted by virtuosity for its own sake, nor by a chameleon-like urge to ingratiate by playing in every style imaginable. His solos, crystalline and coherent, swirl ribbon-like around the airy harmonies of the eight main tracks on this record.

As a composer, Vicéns is arguably less mature than as a soloist, though the results are appealing. Most of his compositions here deploy the same basic elements: an attractive chord sequence that gives way to a rather more assertive (and generally louder) contrapuntal second theme. It's akin to modal jazz, in that both the mellower and the more raucous themes lend themselves to extended solos. Indeed, these are mostly long performances (many preceded, additionally, by thoughtful introductions). Vicéns seems to favor the cooler interludes for his solos; other players are featured in the more frenzied passages.

It's not surprising that the compositions seem to suit no one as well as Vicéns, whose guitar threads with suppleness through the compositions' harmonies. No one, that is, except perhaps for Gomez. On the fine "Cuadro," he is particularly sensitive underneath Vicéns' guitar solo, displaying some of that almost supernatural empathy and interplay that marked the legendary Bill Evans trio of which he was a member. On the otherwise dreamy "Frame of Mind," meanwhile, Gomez's solo is all speed and dexterity.

Guest stars Sánchez and Gomez overlap on exactly one cut, the marvelous "Cuadro." It begins as a swirling, echoing series of rhythmically complicated statements by the tenor saxophone alone, under which the rhythm section enters energetically with the more strident of the tune's themes. Sánchez's solo boils masterfully over the surging rhythm section, cooling just in time for the leader's pensive solo.

Pianist Eduardo Zayas' solos speak with a personal voice and a plenitude of ideas. Nowhere is he better than on his imaginative solo on "El Camino," beginning with wistful chords that nostalgically suggest an older kind of jazz, and past times generally, and which are as creative rhythmically as harmonically. Out of these chords flow keyboard-spanning runs that give way, in turn, to rhythmically ingenious playing.

Alto saxophonist Jonathan Suazo and bassist Matt Clohesy sound fine, despite having to turn over their seats to a couple of jazz heavyweights on many of the tracks on the record. Suazo solos intelligently, particularly on "Beautiful Place," and contributes importantly to the ensemble passages that display Vicéns' compositions to such appealing effect.

As a young player, Vicéns will be seasoned by sideman duties in more established players' bands. But with Point In Time, he shows he's already capable of creative leadership.

Track Listing: El Comienzo; Point In Time; Intro to La Diferencia; La Diferencia; Intro to Cuadro; Cuadro; Beautiful Place; Intro to Frame of Mind; Frame of Mind; Intro to El Camino; El Camino; The World In My View.

Personnel: Gabriel Vicens: guitar; Jonathan Suazo: alto sax; Eduardo Zayas: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Eddie Gomez: bass; Vladimir Coronel: drums; David Sanchez: tenor sax.

Title: Point in Time | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced

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