There is a time honored tradition in jazz of coming up as a sideman, earning as well as learning, paying some dues, and then moving on to a solo project. Saxophonist Ivan Renta
has been doing just that. With an extensive formal music education, a premier session man and after years in the horn section of major salsa and Latin Jazz bands -notably that of Eddie Palmieri
-he has released his first record as leader, Take Off -A Musical Odyssey
From the opening of "Take Off," Renta displays a diversified technical prowess in his tone, that all-encompassing emphasis which separates the outstanding tenors from the pack. There is also a no nonsense lineup of accompanying musicians which are right at home in the Afro-Latin genre and perform with an innate sense of expertise and comfort. Pianist Edsel Gomez
is solid throughout, and is the perfect match for Renta while playing in a variety of settings and moods, from intensely percussive to delicately soothing.
"Carmen"in honor of his motheris a traditional Puerto Rican danza, complete with its ridged structure and regal bearing. This being the classic romantic danza, Renta delivers all the appropriate identifying dynamics, as introducing trombonist Luis Bonilla to play the melodic yet cadenced counterpoint, setting up the interplay. A study in how to play a "lost art" in exquisite music.
There is plenty of stretching out on the more aggressive numbers as the Chick Corea
composition "Matrix," and "Rioma," featuring Nelson Jaime on trumpet, and conga master Giovanni Hidalgo
. The latter is a tribute to his mentor, the venerable sax pioneer Mario Rivera
. "Nuyorican Groove," in a nod to Palmieri, highlights the dazzling piano work of Gomez, laying out the up-tempo melodic progression for Renta to solo around. These guys have an instinctive sense of timing and perform under intense rhythmic pressure, with impressive results.
The pace is brought way down on the ballads "Apoyate En Mi Alma," -a vintage bolero number popularized by Tito Puente's dance orchestraand "Melancolia," the records concluding number. This final track is inspired by Renta's awe and influence of tenor giant John Coltrane
. A perfect example of why having superb tone makes all the difference in a song.
This is one of those rare recordings made by a serious musician who has calculated and honed his craft in exploration of his own expression. As all Latin music was primarily intended for dancing, Ivan Renta, with his ability to swing at any level, has captured the essence of that peculiarity in a deft manner, and offers a preview on how it's done.
Take Off; Carmen; Matrix; Rioma; Apoyate en mi Alma; Jugando; Nuyorican Groove; Melancolia.
Ivan Renta: tenor saxophone; Edsel Gomez: piano; Ruben Rodriguez: bass; Ernesto Simpson: drums; Richie Flores: percussion; Nelson “Gazu” Jaime: trumpet (4); Luis Bonilla: trombone (2); Giovanni Hidalgo: congas (4).