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Sergio Pamies: What Brought You Here?

Troy Dostert By

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On his third release as a leader, pianist Sergio Pamies continues his project of uniting the musical languages of jazz and the flamenco tradition of his native Spain. While his previous release from 2011, Borrachito, had a somewhat stronger emphasis on the latter, on his current record it's mainstream jazz that is the central focus, albeit with some overt gestures reflecting Pamies's Spanish roots as a musician and composer.

Pamies's engagement with the jazz tradition is evident both in terms of repertoire and style. With two Cole Porter covers ("I Get a Kick Out of You" and "All of You") and some straight-ahead swingers ("Our Man Andrew" and "This Is for (Joan) Albert"), Pamies highlights his substantial bop fluency, and his engaging piano statements are harmonically rich and technically adroit, without needless excess: the economy of Pamies's playing leads to some smart, carefully structured solos. And Pamies's compositions are thoughtful and compelling, with strong melodic cores shaped by the romantic sensibility that characterizes his music. A perfect example is the record's title track, which actually appears in three renditions on the album: it's a poignant and affecting melody, nowhere more potent than in Pamies's one-minute unaccompanied statement of the tune, as he showcases his subtle and emotionally rich approach to the keyboard.

There are some strong Latin-influenced moments here as well, reflected especially on tracks like "Bem- Aventurado" and "El Hijo de la Portuguesa," where the addition of Spanish percussion and rhythmic elements allows Pamies to tap into the original roots of his playing. The latter tune is especially irresistible in its danceable feel and energy, with hand- clapping essential to the track's momentum and spirit. And even on "I Get a Kick Out of You," featuring sprightly vocals from Ashleigh Smith (not to mention an impassioned soprano sax solo from Aaron Irwinsky), the strong Latin rhythmic flavor gives the track some distinctive spice.

As good as the individual parts may be, however, the album does feel a bit fragmented. Pamies doesn't really get to work with a "band" on this record, as the only other musician featured on its entirety is bassist Young Heo; instead, there are a host of musicians doing guest spots. While this doesn't detract from the overall caliber of musicianship, as Pamies has made sensible personnel choices, it would have been great to hear him with a particular ensemble from start to finish. And some listeners might question the need for a third rendition of "What Brought You Here?" to close the album, as the rather syrupy smooth-jazz arrangement becomes cloying by its conclusion.

Slight shortcomings aside, however, the record shows clearly that Pamies has a finely-honed vision as a composer, and his ability to do justice to both halves of his musical equation is unmistakable.

Track Listing: 1) What Brought You Here? (Intro); 2) Our Man Andrew featuring Quamon Fowler; 3) I Get a Kick Out of You (Verse); 4) I Get a Kick Out of You featuring Ashleigh Smith and Samuel Torres; 5) Bem-Aventurado; 6) Aún No Te Conozco featuring Pete Clagett; 7) All of You featuring Clay Pritchard; 8) What Brought You Here? (Trio); 9) El Hijo de la Portuguesa featuring Brad Kang; 10) This is for (Joan) Albert; 11) Faltando Um Pedaço featuring Lara Bello; 12) What Brought You Here? (Reprise) featuring Quamon Fowler.

Personnel: Young Heo: Acoustic Bass; Lupe Barrera: Drums (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12) and Bongo (6); Andrew Griffith: Drums (2, 7, 10, 11); Ashleigh Smith: Vocals (3, 4); Lara Bello: Vocals (11); Pete Clagett: Flugelhorn (4, 6); Quamon Fowler: Tenor Saxophone (2), Soprano Saxophone (2, 12), and EWI (12); Clay Pritchard: Tenor Saxophone (7); Aaron Irwinsky: Soprano and Tenor Saxophones (4); Daniel Pardo: Flute and Alto Flute (11) ; Samuel Torres: Percussion (4, 12); Brad Kang: Electric Guitar (9); Miguel Fernández “Cheyenne:” Percussion (9); José Cortés “El Indio:” Hand clapping and flamenco foot tapping (9); Sergio Gómez “El Colorao,” Javier Martos, Julián Heredia, Benjamín Santiago “El Moreno,” and José Cortés “El Pirata:” Hand Clapping (9); Nick Rothouse: Percussion (5, 11); John Sturino: Vibraphone (12); Luanne Homzy: Violin and Viola (6, 12); Alisha Bauer: Cello (6, 12); Sergio Pamies: Piano, Electric Piano, Melodica.

Title: What Brought You Here? | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Bebyne Records

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