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Pianist Hector Martignon gathers together the musicians who played as Foreign Affair for this, his third recording as leader. The group began as an acoustic trio before going the electric route in 1998. Besides the two recordings, Portrait in Black and White (Candid, 1996) and The Foreign Affair (Candid, 2000), there were tours and concerts. Martignon thus collected a wealth of musicians over the years.
Martignon wrote the music with one or more of the featured musicians in mind. Two tunes each were recorded at four different sessions, representing different moments in the evolution of the band. The result is a CD that is lively and spirited, with a soul to it. It has as much to do with the musicians as it does the compositions and arrangements. The former have a full-bodied presence, the latter gives the soloist plenty of room which they use creatively.
Martignon is a vivid pianist. His range is broad, his ideas cohesive, and he has a finely tuned sense of harmony. He displays these traits convincingly. On "Refugee he gives the melody room to breathe while enunciating the chords emphatically. Bassist Richard Bona slips neatly into the groove, at first spitting whorls against the lines of the piano and then digging in with a blistering solo. The use of a bassist, drummer and percussionist make for an interesting, and often invigorating, rhythm section.
The punch, witnessed on the "Refugee, is also manifested on "99 MacDougal. This is another sparkler with Martignon, drummer Horacio "El Negro Hernandez and percussionist Samuel Torres igniting the fire before it really gets torrid when bassist John Benitez comes in. The intense, yet exhilarating interplay is taken to a different level by guitarist Edgardo Miranda. He exposes the melody with full, juicy notes, at times flattening them to add just the hint of emphasis.
Kenny Barron adds his piano to "Beauty Sleep. He and Martignon make for an elegant pairing, a little boogie-woogie opening the doors to a rich array of notes from each. When composing this tune, Martignon had the "cutting contests of days gone by in mind. While it does, in a sense, bring in that tangent, it is more convincing as a portrait of two pianists showing the individuality of their craftsmanship.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.