In listening to pianist/vocalist Hector Martignon's Refugee, I was immediately attracted to his notable sidemen, including Richard Bona, Kenny Baron, Eddie Gomez and Jeff "Tain Watts. Martignon obviously has the chops, and so the only question is if his music is compelling enough to carry off an album as a leader. He has done so admirably.
The title song is a hard-driving tour de force, with a deeply grounded bass line from accomplished Cameroonian virtuoso Bona. With the bottom firmly established by Bona, drummer Willard Dyson and manic percussionist Samuel Torres, Martignon shows his compositional skills with many midstream tempo changes and darting acoustical piano solos, all sending home a mainstream sound with a decidedly Latin flavor. Bona's flawlessly executed solo is a joy to behold in its technical virtuosity, third world musicality and endless creativity.
On "99 Macdougal and "Tomorrow's Past, Martignon takes off on electric piano behind a different rhythm section comprised of bassist John Benitez and drummer Horacio "El Negro Hernandez, along with the ever frenetic Torres. This group has a totally different feel, and the high point here is the wonderfully fluid Latin-inspired guitar work by Edgardo Miranda, a talent that should be closely followed in the future.
Jazz pianist Kenny Baron was a strong influence and teacher to Martignon, and so hearing the two play counterpoint to each otherMartignon on acoustic piano and Baron on electric pianoon the easy swing of "Beauty Sleep was a real treat. Martignon demonstrates to Baron that he has absorbed his lessons well.
"Eddie's Ready is a tune Martignon created especially for Refugee's other virtuoso bassist, Eddie Gomez. Martignon starts off a synchronized exchange with Gomez that leads into some fine solo work by Gomez, complete with his audible voicing. While the piano work is driven by Gomez's steady but challenging bass lines, the tune is subtly anchored by the accomplished but not overpowering percussion work of Watts and Sammy Figueroa.
"You Won't Forget Me is a blues-oriented, straight-ahead ballad that showcases Mark Whitfield on guitar, with a strong and facile performance by bassist Matt Garrison. It demonstrates that Martignon's abilities, while strongly Latin-influenced, are not stuck in this one modality.
The finale is the catchy Don Grolnick tune "Nothing Personal made famous by Michael Brecker on his eponymous 1987 Impulse! debut. Here Martignon is again featured on electric piano, and Richard Bona plies his rapid-fire bass. Constantly challenging the already formidable timing, both showcase their virtuosity on a tune that lends itself perfectly to such a journey. Once again Miranda's guitar is a noteworthy counterpoint, as is Willard Dyson's drum work.
All in all Refugee is a satisfying piece of music that brings together artistry on many different fronts, doesn't pigeonhole him as a Latin-only player, and opens the door to keep a watchful eye on Martignon's developing and undeniable talents.
Refugee; 99 MacDougal; Observatory; Beauty Sleep; Eddie
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).
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