Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra
Great Latin Jazz composers derive inspiration from a variety of sources, and when it strikes, they rely upon elements from their musical toolbox to clearly express their thoughts and emotions. Strong melodies often form the core of a piece’s mood, expressing the heart of the composer’s inspiration and guiding the piece’s overall structure. A composer’s ability to tap into different types of melodies from classical themes and folk songs, to jazz lines broadens their palette and allows them to develop more powerful themes. When the composer harmonizes the melody, they take large strides towards setting the piece’s mood. A basic set of chords can set a light and fun tone while a distinctly modern harmonic structure, full of complex note clusters, establishes a serious and sometimes dark mood. With these pieces in place, the instrumentalists then serve as paints on a canvas, with different combinations of brass, woodwinds, and rhythm section players shading the pieces with different colors. The integration of solid musical concepts like dynamic contrast, changing timbre, and crisp articulations hone these ideas even further, adding clarity to the piece. Rhythmic structures allow a composer to make both overt and subtle cultural references or simply add intensity and spirit to a piece. When a composer clearly captures their concept and then they choose the right tools to communicate the message, they always create powerfully moving music. Argentinean bassist and composer Pedro Giraudo found a deeply effective inspiration in his personal life, which he beautifully translates into a rich and intriguing large ensemble work on El Viaje.
Expressing Emotions In A Rich Four-Movement Suite
The album’s centerpiece, “El Viaje,” a four-movement suite, focuses upon the different feelings and emotions that Giraudo experienced during his wife’s pregnancy and the birth of his first child. Pianist Jess Jurkovic introduces “Tramo I” with a contemplative piano introduction based upon an implied tango feel that grows into a rich wave of sound as the band enters. Giraudo pushes the band into a sense of urgency with a repeated melodic pattern as the brass players force bold rhythmic patterns over racing saxophone lines. Tenor saxophonist Luke Batson captures the song’s underlying tone with a tension filled statement that combines lush melodicism with a driving intensity. Giraudo creates a striking contrast with a brash funk drumbeat, waves of brass, and slippery saxophone melodies as the band explodes into “Tramo II.” Trombonist Mike Fahie leaps into his solo with a funky swagger that matches the rhythm section, developing his improvisation into longer complex lines as the wind players push him with thick background lines. A constant stream of winding saxophone lines support trumpet player Jonathan Powell, who drives his solo into a climax with crackling high notes. Alto saxophonists Todd Bashore and Will Vinson thoughtfully travel through a series of reflective melodies on “Tramo III” that intertwine with a delicate sensitivity, building potent textures. Baritone saxophonist Carl Maraghi enters the mix with a careful walk through his improvisation, letting his deep soulful tone speak volumes about the song’s message. The rhythm section infuses the piece with interactive excitement as the band grows behind Maraghi, encouraging him into a frenzy of wild runs and daring improvisatory choices. The saxophones and brass converse with contrasting lines over a funk drumbeat on “Tramo IV,” starting the piece with a boost of attention-grabbing energy. Vinson jumps into his improvisation with an enthusiastic vigor, winding around the groove until his saxophone explodes into a passionate stream of squelching post-bop intensity. The band transitions from Vinson’s solo into a brash combination of pounding rhythmic figures, tense melodies, and free improvisation, ending the suite on a screaming high. Giraudo creates a deeply effective combination of pieces with El Viaje, fueling the four movements with intricate writing, interesting musical ideas, and outstanding performances.
Transparently Exposing His Musical Personality
Several other compositions emanate from Giraudo’s family life, inspired by his wife and child. Bold brass figures thrash against a bombarding rhythm section attack on “El Bajonazo,” shrinking into a quiet conversation between Jurkovic and the potent sensitivity of Giraudo’s bowed bass. After a quick burst of big band strength, saxophonist Alejandro Aviles engages the band with a meditative statement that quickly grows into an intensive attack of urgency and passion. As the power of the full band returns, Giraudo finds a balance between structure and chaos in his writing with bold, distinct figures and moments of free improvisation that send the piece into an exciting finish. Batson takes center stage on clarinet as he interacts with Jurkovic, Giraudo, and percussionist Tony De Vivo in an intimate and joyful melodic reading on “Yarulina,” a dedication to Giraudo’s wife. The piece moves into a decidedly more serious tone as the brass and saxophones spin long melodic lines, playing together and between phrases, only to fall back into a harmonization of Batson’s original melody. Jurkovic thoughtfully begins his improvisation against a thin texture, developing into fuller ideas as the band interjects short punchy rhythmic figures and quiet chordal patches. Batson weaves a contemplative melody through thick walls of sound on “Nachgeschmack,” finding his way through sometimes dissonant chords or classic jazz voicings. Trumpet player Tatum Greenblatt rises from this moody setting with a confident sense of lyricism, asserting himself with clean and clear melodies that push his sound into the forefront. Giraudo closes his thought on this piece with some engaging writing, combining constant saxophone vamps, rhythmic brass, and dissonant harmonies into a powerful mixture. Trombonist Ryan Keberle, Giraudo, and Bashore each introduce pieces of the melody on “Punto de Partida” until the rhythm section battles against a sea of slurred trombones and rich textural writing. Keberle boldly leaps out of this foundation into an assertive improvisation that drives rapid melodies and repeated figures against a sparse rhythm section. Bashore follows Keberle’s lead with a fiercely strong improvisation that pushes the band into a dramatic climax with streams of outside notes, squelching screams, and quick runs. Giraudo’s writing consistently provides interesting moments and emotional outbursts that transparently expose his musical personality in a highly personal fashion.
Delivering An Emotionally Charged Masterpiece
Giraudo crafts a beautiful statement on El Viaje, building music that screams with passion, excitement, fear, joy, contemplation, serenity, and so much more in a deeply moving expression of humanity. Memorable melodies and rich harmonies anchor the foundation of Giraudo’s compositions, but there’s a deeper thoughtfulness that flows throughout the work. Each note and every chordal relationship relates directly back to Giraudo’s main concept, and regardless of each piece’s complexity, Giraudo holds onto the basic simplicity of his primary idea. He holds a firm grasp upon the idea of texture, and manipulates the color in his band with precision and skill. He understands how racing saxophones or harsh brass cluster effect our emotions and he insightfully twists these musical pieces into dramatic statements. Giraudo touches upon Argentinean music forms, but never lets them drive the work; they remain a support mechanism in the background, constantly riding through the music as a reminder of Giraudo’s cultural background. The band attacks the music with the same conviction that Giraudo applied to the writing, resulting in a bold and confident performance that bursts with integrity. They tear through the music’s complex technical demands, but they stay closely aligned with Giraudo’s emotional expression. Giraudo allows them to take part in his idea, allowing ample room for improvisation, both on an individual and group level. Giraudo creates a fitting tribute to his inspiration on El Viaje, delivering an emotionally charged masterpiece that establishes him as a skilled composer with the insight, integrity, and artistry to contribute significant works to the Latin Jazz world.
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