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Alex Beltran: Rift

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Alex Beltran: Rift
Chicago-based saxophonist Alex Beltran delivers a tour de force with Rift, an exploration of identity in a musical form. Beltran, who grew up in two distinct cultural spheres, those of his Latino father and his white mother, describes in the liner notes how he never fit with either side of the family. This became a source of inspiration for his cohesive debut as a leader, which features seven of his compositions and a cover of the electronic duo, Sylvan Esso's "Frequency."

On "Sub Rosa" Beltran weaves a yearning melody with his soprano saxophone, which floats over his side men's atmospheric rumble. The band's sashaying refrains give way to pianist Stu Mindeman, who crafts an agile improvisation out of a cascade of cool and crisp notes. Then, Beltran blows a lithe and eloquent melody with crackling spontaneity and warm emotion. Drummer Jon Deitemyer ushers in the conclusion with his thunderous polyrhythms.

In contrast, the fiery and energetic "Fragments" opens with booming ensemble sounds. Mindeman follows with his agile pianism at breathtakingly fast tempos. Beltran and guest alto saxophonist Lenard Simpson engage in an angular duet over riotous rhythms. The group flirts with dissonance but never crosses over to freer realms.

On the cinematic "Bird Dance" Simpson and Beltran play the sashaying melody over a simmering cadence. Then, each saxophonist takes his turn in embellishing the main theme with his signature style. Simpson infuses it with subtle exuberance and refreshingly inventive ideas. Beltran adds a bittersweet urgency to it with no less of an innovative spirit. Bassist Sam Peters then solos with whimsy and a confident swagger before the closing head.

Trumpeter Chad McCullough joins Beltran in the front line on the soulful "Jay." His elegant and passionate extemporization is replete with soaring lines and burnished tones. Beltran follows with crisp and muscular punch-like phrases. Mindeman then lets loose a stream of crystalline chords before the quintet launches into a delightfully riotous repartee.

Rift demonstrates that Beltran is an imaginative composer, mature bandleader and a consummate performer. It is a stimulating album that rewards repeated listenings and balances creative rigor with accessibility, hence appealing to a diverse audience.

Track Listing

Lulu; Bird Dance; Sub Rosa; Frequency; Fragments; Jay; The River Will Decide; Rift.

Personnel

Alex Beltran
saxophone, tenor
Lenard Simpson
saxophone, alto
Additional Instrumentation

Alex Beltran: soprano saxophone.

Album information

Title: Rift | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Calligram Records


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