Ever since the path-breaking, horn-like excursions of guitarist Charlie Christian
in Benny Goodman Centennial Orchestra
band, the language and literature of the guitar have forever been changed. Today's exponents, from Pat Metheny
to Fred Frith
, have stretched its boundaries, albeit from dramatically different perspectives of the musical spectrum. Sandro Albert fits somewhere in the dynamic pantheon of guitarists, a musician who comes from a long line of musicians in the fertile tradition of Brazilian guitarists, amongst them Laurindo Almeida
, Carlos Barbosa-Lima
and Anibal "Garoto" Augusto Sardinha. Albert has taken his instrument much further into the vocal realm, like Frith; although he uses milder dissonance, his penchant for using complex layers of color and texture is legion among the cognoscenti. His perception of the timbral values of notes, and their elastic existence within harmonic structures, enables him to enrich the melody and harmony, as well as the rhythm of everything he plays. Vertical
is a soaring ode to New York City and its intrepid landscape. But it is also a stunning exercise in harmony, that vertical element of all music. Albert has written some of his most charming yet challenging material, sharing it with flutist Ricardo Ursaia, bassist Michael O'Brien
and percussionist Richie Barshay. The musicians' interpolations are almost telepathic, as they bob and weave around each other like a rhythmic DNA chain, but most exciting are the ones involving Ursaia and Albert, the musicians constantly dancing around one another on "Elastic Nature" and "Right Angles." Albert uses all his fingers and thumbs with great audacity. Even more, with uncommon touch and divine intervention, he makes his fingers sing. In the absence of vocals, he participates in breathtaking arias with Ursaia, for whom he has written the most exciting contrapuntal parts, and they play this to perfection on "Vertical," a giddying, ecstatic harmonic excursion that dances interminably with O'Brien's bass and Barshay's drums.
Albert also continues to meld his Brazilian roots with European sensibilities of harmony and elements of swing, as in "Obrigado Villa," a tribute to the great classicist from Brazil, Heitor Villa-Lobos. On "JW's Baiao," a dedication to Jimmy Wyble
, he uses a series of chord changes once suggested by the great guitarist, and he is far more free-spirited and dancing in the maracatu
of Belo Horizonte. On "The Medusa," he incorporates elements of the famed flatted-fifth that defined bebop. On "Where I Belong" he is stately, and almost florid, as he indulges in baroque harmony with soaring effect. Whatever he is doing, Albert is always coaxing incredibly human voicings from his complement of guitars.
His fourth album, Vertical
is very possibly his most ambitious and accomplished to date, and well worthy of the greater reputation that it is going to earn him.