Puerto Rican-born pianist Edsel Gomez hasn't recorded any albums as leader since his Grammy-nominated debut, Cubist Music, in 2007he has been far too busybut that doesn't mean he hasn't harbored such plans in the back of his mind. Now in his early 50s, Gomez decided the time was right to enter a studio again, the result of which is Road to Udaipur, a resplendent cornucopia of Latin-centered jazz that pays tacit homage to a pair of his mentors, Chick Corea and Eddie Palmieri.
Unlike many other albums such as this, which lean heavily on vocals (or vocalese), Udaipur is almost entirely instrumental, using groups of various sizes, each of whom knows how to swing, to underscore its musical purpose. And no one swings harder than Gomez whose eloquent piano soars and shines throughout. He also plays clave, timbales and other percussive "instruments" includingScout's honor hand drill and stone filled bucket (but don't ask where). As for the music, Gomez wrote and arranged everything ("Bahia" isn't the more familiar standard by Ary Barroso). "Four Seasons and a Five" was co-written with bassist Arismar do Espiritu Santo.
The only "vocal," if one can call it that, is by flutist Roberto Pitre Vazquez on Gomez' ode to "Charles Chaplin," and that consists of little more than grunting and coughing. Elsewhere, the group dynamic prevails, with Gomez imparting guidance and stability from the keyboard. The Corea influence is most readily apparent on the trio number "Four Seasons and a Five" and the rhythmic "Spain-ished Cubes," Gomez' cubist restatement of Corea's "Spain," while the spirit of Palmieri is ever-present on the more forceful salsa "Search and Build" and the potent "Bahia." High energy is a hallmark, starting with the fast-paced "Tertulia Samba," featuring bassist Espiritu Santo, drummer Douglas Alonso and Brazilian alto saxophonist Cassio Ferreira.
Besides "Four Seasons and a Five," the core Gomez trio (bassist Alex Ayala, drummer Bruce Cox) is heard on "Road to Udaipur," "Homesick Nostalgia," "Ninibilo Majulolo and the Bridge," "Smile On" and "Brothers." There are trumpets on the flag-waving "Search and Build" but they aren't heard again until the closing number, "The Chant," a Latin waltz that features flutist Vazquez and tenor saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia. Vazquez is front and center again (with flugel Walmir Gil and Brazilian percussionist Chacazinho) on another lyrical groover, "On Second Thoughts."
To anyone wondering where Gomez vanished after his widely praised premiere, Road to Udaipur offers a conclusive answer: he hasn't gone anywhere. Nor has he lost his touch when it comes to fashioning likeable music. This is Latin jazz with a brash and positive attitude.
Tertulia Samba; Udaipur; Homesick Nostalgia; Search and Build; Ninibilo Majulolo and the Bridge; Four Seasons and a Five; Spain-ished Cubes (for Chick Corea); On Second Thoughts; Charles Chaplin; Smile On; Bahia; Brothers; The Chant.
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