Native Columbian Pianist Hector Martignon closes his liner notes to Refugee thusly:
"Although I play the acoustic and electric pianos in all tunes...I prefer the role I almost instinctively adopted, paraphrasing Auguste Rodin: provide boulders of marble of distinctive shapes and sizes to a group of sculptors and then collectively carve out the most beautiful shapes imprisoned inside those rocks.
Not having read these words before listening to the disc, the thought struck me that Martignon, like Ellington with "Concertos for Cootie, was composing for a whole passel of guest musicians. It turns out he was. Martignon concentrates primarily on the rhythm section in his selection of sculptors for Refugee. The bass, drums, guitar and percussion chairs are occupied and shared among the leaders of their respective instruments.
The title cut kicks off the disc with Richard Bona (Michael and Randy Brecker, Larry Coryell) on bass and Willard Dyson (Jimmy Scott, The New York Voices, Dakota Staton and Cassandra Wilson) on drums. Martignon envisions a dense Latin groove pinned down with Bona's elastic bass playing. Bona is virtuosic in his soloing and perfect in his time keeping. Guitarist Edgardo Miranda burns the house by pouring gasoline on it. Dyson's cross rhythms increase the Latin density to critical mass, inaugurating the disc in a most proper way.
Martignon goes on to create similar sculptures with similar sculptors. Of note is "99 MacDougal, employing bassist John Benitez and drummer Horacio "El Negro Hernandez in a Latin counterpoint, punctuated with Edgardo Miranda's guitar and Samuel Torres' percussion. This piece shows the endless loam of creativity still to be derived from Latin jazz when Latin rhythms collide with thick and complex hard bop heads. Martignon's teacher, Kenny Barron, joins his student on electric piano on "Beauty Sleep. The rhythm duo chosen for this piece is Eddie Gomez on bass and Jeff "Tain Watts on drums, additionally joined by guitarist Mark Whitfield.
Martignon understates his role in the opening quote because his talent at the keyboard and composing staff are beyond compare. He has a perfect grasp on the punchy, humid piquant of Latin rhythm. Conversely, Zoho impresario Joachim Becker has a supernatural ability to attract the finest Latin jazz musicians to his label. Following a string of very successful recordings on his Zoho Roots imprint, Becker returns to his bailiwick of "Latin Jazz with a New York vibe in style with Hector Martignon's Refugee. Thank the stars that Becker allow such talent to take the music where it needs to go.
Track Listing: Refugee; 99 MacDougal; Observatory; Beauty Sleep; Eddie
Personnel: Hector Martignon: piano, vocals (3); Kenny Barron: electric piano (4); Edgardo Miranda: guitar (1, 2, 6, 8); Mark Whitfield: guitar (3, 4, 5, 7); Justin Quinn: guitar (1, 8); Richard Bona: bass (1, 8); John Benitez: bass (2, 6); Matt Garrison: bass (3, 7); Eddie Gomez: bass (4, 5); Willard Dyson: drums (1, 8); Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez: drums (2, 6); Dafnis Prieto: drums (3, 7); Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums (4, 5); Samuel Torres: percussion (1, 2, 6, 8); Sammy Figueroa: percussion (4, 5); Roberto Quintero: percussion (3).