During its first seconds, Trombonilla's Terminal Clarity: Live at the Jazz Gallery sounds like a band tuning up or a bit of traffic gridlock with an impatient honk or two. But then it advances full swing into an enjoyable post-bop exploration worthy of intent listening.
Luis Bonilla, a talented and focused New York-based trombone player, performs in several well-regarded big bands, including the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Mingus Big Band and Arturo O'Farrill's AfroCuban Jazz Orchestra. But here, on this CD of originals recorded live at New York's Jazz Gallery, he gives voice to his own inclinations in an idiosyncratic journey of free jazz that incorporates Latin rhythms with other sinewy sounds.
This is not your standard wah-wah 'bones. Bonilla coaxes unusual and subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, variations from his own instrument, with Donny McCaslin (tenor and soprano saxophones and alto flute), Peter Brainin (tenor and soprano sax), Ricardo Rodriguez (acoustic bass), Patrick Forero (drums) and Pernell Saturnino (percussion) offering strong and unfaltering support throughout. While trombone can be a powerful, attention-getting instrument when featured, Bonilla gives his colleagues ample space to breathe, adding momentum to the flow of his compositional ideas.
Yes, these pieces are long and some might argue too extended---two are a smidgen under nine minutes each, three over ten and one a whopping sixteen. But this was a live show, at which some good-natured meandering is to be expected and there are few moments where one looks at the clock. Once in the traffic flow of this driving music, time flies.
Bonilla may be a trombonist used to handling that big long sliding thing, but when it comes to execution of his ideas, he lets nothing slide.
Up Easy; Mambostinato; Terminal Clarity; That's How They Get You; Where's Sepia?; September's Children.
Luis Bonilla: trombone; Donny McCaslin: tenor and soprano saxophones and alto flute; Peter Brainin: tenor and soprano sax; Ricardo Rodriguez: acoustic bass; Patrick Forero: drums; Pernell Saturnino: percussion.