The Art of the Quintet: Voro Garcia and Magnus Thuelund


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A good form is hard to find, but the quintet offers plenty of variety in terms of musical texture and yet has the intimacy that a larger band often misses. Here are two artists who both take full advantage of the format of the quintet. Both are leaders who write their own tunes, and both are less known than the guest stars they have invited to participate on their records.

Voro Garcia
Live at Jamboree

Voro García is an accomplished trumpeter and composer from Spain. As the title underlines, his album Live at Jamboree is taped at the Spanish venue, Jamboree, and offers the experience of being present at a live concert. People are clapping respectfully without disturbing and the compositions are extended vehicles for improvisation. They are fine, catchy themes that would be perfect for any kind of blowing session. The only cover is a reading of Benny Golson's classic "Stablemates."

The real treat of this music is the energy that comes across. This is really a LIVE album and Garcia plays with a bright and burnished tone, taking wild solo flights, but he can also be gently lyrical. A good example of his way of working with the narrative of a tune is "Bones" that starts out with a lovely introduction from guitarist Peter Bernstein that sets the mood of a mellow tune with smoky lines from Garcia. Then the 11-minute epic picks up speed only to end in a hushed, gradual whisper.

The man behind the kit is no other than the former Brad Mehldau-alumni, Jorge Rossy, who keeps the rhythms cooking with help from bassist Deejay Foster. However, the most intriguing experience is to hear saxophonist Chris Cheek in this often energetic context. While it is still preferable to hear him unfold the sophisticated shades of tones in his own music, it is refreshing to hear him blow the lid off the bottle in a heated chase with Garcia on the appropriately titled "Hell Glammer." A glam of approval is also suitable for this record.

Magnus Thuelund
Angel from the South
Fresh Sound New Talent

Whereas Voro Garcia often heats things up, Danish alto saxophonist Magnus Thuelund is just as interested in slowing things down. In fact, the composition "Slower" is exactly about slowing down as Thuelund explains in one of his brief haiku-like notes for each composition: "Slowing life/things down should be done more often. Through a series of metric modulations this tune becomes slower and slower.

While it is clear how "Slower" really becomes slower, the fascination of this composition also lies in the use of contrapuntal contrasts. For instance, the slowly breathing brass lines of Thuelund and trumpeter Ralph Alessi in the beginning are complemented by percussive fireworks from the eminent drummer Nasheet Waits, who later plays as softly as leaves falling from a tree.

Voro Garcia uses the quintet to create several layers of energy, but with Thuelund the quintet is just as much about creating a chamber-like complexity in the way the musical voices are used to unfold the compositions. This strategy is even enhanced on two tracks where saxophonist Marc Mommaas becomes yet another voice that is added to the group. Both "Reach" and "Aurum" are long narratives and perfect occasions for exploring a variety of musical colors without losing the groove. However, it becomes slightly mellow on "Aurum" where pianist Nikolaj Hess also provides a welcome contrast between light, Latin flourishes and heavy outbursts and melancholy chord combinations.

All in all, Angel from the South is a strong statement from an emerging alto saxophonist and composer. Thuelund indeed deserves to be a part of the prestigious roster of the Fresh Sound New Talent Label that has released this record.

Tracks and Personnel

Live at Jamboree

Tracks: A La Luz; Bones; Salto Al Vacio; Ibiza Gris; Hell Glammer; Samba Pa Tri; Stablemates.

Personnel: Voro Garcia: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Deejay Foster: double bass; Jorge Rossy: drums.

Angel from the South

Tracks: Slower; Argentum; Reach; Angel from the South; Autumn in April; Illuminate; Aurum; Miss Lisa.

Personnel: Magnus Thuelund: alto saxophone; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Marc Mommaas: tenor saxophone (#3, #7); Nikolaj Hess: piano; Craig Earle: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

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