Globe Unity: Spain
The Spanish jazz scene got off to a slow start, most notably in the mid '60s with the launch of the San Sebastián festival, but has flowered considerably in the intervening half-century, particularly around the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, producing a range of artists from late hardbopping pianist Tete Montoliu to flamenco-jazz fusionists Chano Domínguez and Paco De Lucia to drummer Jorge Rossy and Fresh Sound-New Talent label president Jordi Pujol.
En la Cuerda Floja is the sophomore release of Barcelona-based pianist/composer Jordi Berni featuring his trio Afinke (with bassist David González and drummer Xavi Hinojosa, joined by tenor saxophonist Santi de la Rubia) in a varied set of well-written and arranged originals. "Caminke" is particularly catchy and the closing cut contains a hint of Flamenco in its melody and chords. Hewing close to the hard bop mainstream, the tracks contain effective transitional sections, strong soloing and cohesive rhythm section support, giving the album a satisfying overall flow.
Órbita, by sound engineer Santiago Latorre, another Barcelonian, calls to mind Bill Evans' Conversations with Myself or Moon (an indie sci-fi film in which an astronaut plays ping-pong with his clone), both works that use studio 'overdubbing' to patch in interactive doppelgangers. The opener, "Canon," is just that, with four separate alto sax lines echoing each other in orderly succession, becoming more disorderly as the track progresses. Much of the disc could be perfect accompaniment for a rave, undulating 'washes' of robotic blips, trance beats, industrial-strength bass, white-noise snowstorms, reverse loops, ghostly calliopes and a grab-bag of synthesized sound effects. The techno pastiche is humanized by improvised alto saxophones and acoustic and electric pianos, often layered in complementary pairs.
Un Llamp Que No S'Acaba Mai documents a concert by pianist Agustí Fernández (a leading light of Barcelona's freer fringe) with bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders (both from London's improv scene) at the Sigüenza Jazz Festival. Here Fernández and Co. perform the festival's first ever offering of totally improvised music, a set that, according to the liner notes, opened the ears and "doors" of many uninitiated listeners. And a worthy entrée to the outré it is: from the first feathery rumblings and light harmonics of the bass, complemented by chromatic fragments from the piano and whispering bells and gongs, the music crackles like a slowing heating hearth, hums like a hive and winks and twinkles like stars in a compelling segue of mercurial soundscapes.
Tracks and Personnel
En la Cuerda Floja
Tracks: En la cuerda floja; La sonrisa maldita; Nuria; Interludio; Caminke; Sus-pendido; Cuantos somos; Confusión; Flamenco blues.
Personnel: Jordi Berni: piano, David González: bass; Xavi Hinojosa: drums; Santi de la Rubia: tenor sax.
Tracks: canon; naufragio; órbita; le sobrevive, le sobrevive a todo la frialdad; despedida; la espera; viajando en rosa; alpha-globin; preludio.
Personnel: Santiago Latorre: alto sax, electronics.
Un Llamp Que No S'Acaba Mai
Tracks: Primo; Secondo; Tertio; Quarto.
Personnel: Agusti Fernandez: piano; John Edwards (bass); Mark Sanders (drums).