Dançando Com Ale
Holding a coherent sound against stylistic diversity presents a unique challenge for the modern Latin Jazz artist. For years, many artists let genre define their music, emphasizing the rhythmic portion of their work. As a result, they stuck within the confines of one genre, many times favoring Afro-Cuban or Brazilian rhythms. They found success and in many cases, they didn’t understand other traditions, so rather than risk a jumbled musical mess, they built upon their strengths. After years of this practice, the Latin Jazz world has expanded, touching upon other rhythmic traditions, referencing folklore and serious composition, as well as the modern jazz language. Musicians hoping to reach new musical milestones need to expand their horizons and respect their audience’s savvy listening tastes. They need a wider knowledge base of Caribbean and South American music, studying the master musicians and accepted standards of several traditions. Most importantly, the contemporary Latin Jazz artist needs a defined musical personality that can weather the journey through diverse styles and approaches. Once the genre stops defining the music, the only thing left is the artist’s voice, so it must be powerful. Guitarist Greg Diamond integrates a broad stylistic diversity on Dançando Com Ale, presenting a solid Latin Jazz statement grounded in his powerful musical voice.
Compositions From Diverse Latin Jazz Masters
Diamond displays a thorough study of a broad range Latin Jazz styles with creative arrangements of compositions by genre masters. Tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake joins Diamond on a journey through the winding melody of Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal’s “Rubliço,” executing some impressive unison melodies. Diamond plays off the song’s rhythmic momentum with a bubbling chordal solo that builds into a lyrical single note phrase. Blake digs into the song’s jazz harmonies with long lines that find their way into a colorful solo from drummer Ferenc Nemeth that cleverly elaborates upon the main groove. Bassist Edward Perez sets a somber tone with a sparse and serious bass line on “Ninghe, Ninghe,” from Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge. Vocalist Vanessa Diamond enters over the full rhythm section, interpreting the Spanish lyrics with an elegant and commanding Operatic style that adds an interesting twist. The rhythm section maintains a quiet mood behind Blake, who finds a subtle balance between his breathy jazz tone and the graceful setting. Diamond finds a mixture of tres and modern jazz guitar on the main groove to Mongo Santamaria’s “Sofrito” until Blake and soprano saxophonist Brian Hogans slide into the main melody. Hogans tears into his improvisation with a screaming tone, racing through a tension-filled solo. Diamond follows with an equally enthusiastic statement that draws interaction from the rhythm section until percussionist Arturo Stable takes the spotlight with an energetic solo. A steady bass line churns beneath an arpeggiated line on Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” until Blake and Hogans enter with the main melody. The rhythm section maintains an understated inertia behind Hogans’ sharp alto tone as he weaves assertive lines through the texture. Blake creates contrast with spacious phrases at first, developing his ideas into a ferocious wave of sound. Diamond travels through several important composers here, making a connection with a broad range of styles and providing inspiring settings for his musicians.
Looking At Latin Jazz Through A Modern Perspective
Diamond looks at Latin Jazz through a modern perspective on two pieces, incorporating interesting compositional devices. “Paradigma” opens with an addictive guitar vamp that alternates between five and six beat cycles before Hogans and Blake run through a blazing melody. Hogans drives a distinctive statement through the changing time signatures with an aggressive approach and a keen sense of syncopation. Diamond creates an instant contrast with thin chordal ideas, building into twisting single note lines that skillfully wind through the unique structure. Perez and Stable establish a slow and spacious groove while Nemeth colors the texture with accents on “Naufrage,” leading into a memorable melody with a Middle Eastern flavor. Diamond reflects the song’s ethereal atmosphere with a tone drenched in reverb and echo as he carefully constructs an engaging extended improvisation. Blake explores the texture with a more assertive approach, slicing combinations of short rhythmic phrases and longer bebop influenced ideas together into a cohesive statement. These pieces place Diamond’s repertoire directly in the modern jazz world, reflecting a contemporary and exploratory viewpoint.
Reflecting Traditional Latin Jazz Ideas
Diamond keeps a steady bond with more traditional Latin Jazz ideas on several tracks, writing around Cuban and Brazilian ideas. A simmering son montuno groove opens into an upbeat melody from Blake and Diamond on “Primavera,” smartly arranged around tight rhythm section breaks. Blake deftly intertwines his running jazz lines around the clave with an aggressive attitude, followed by Diamond, who maintains an energetic feel through flowing lines. Perez cleverly develops a series of ideas into a beautifully constructed statement before Nemeth and Stable take turns soloing through band hits. The deep rich tone of Perez’s bowed bass introduces the melody with a gorgeous concentration on the bolero “Delicate Contents” before Diamond takes the lead. A sensitive use of articulations brings Diamond’s interpretation of the melody alive with subtle embellishments from pianist Emilio Solla. He takes his time building a solo over the beautiful chord changes, delicately developing his ideas while Solla provides interactive support. Stable bursts into a driving samba groove while Solla takes a short improvisation on “Dançando Com Ale,” until Blake and Diamond leap into an energetic and interesting melody. Solla contributes an attention grabbing improvisation, filled with stimulating melodic lines and a powerful grasp on the music’s rhythmic language. Diamond explodes into a strong statement over a sudden stop break, using smart thematic development to present his idea. A chordal vamp segues into an up-tempo son montuno as Diamond freely plays the melody on “All Or Nothing.” Blake displays a familiarity with the well-known standard, bouncing quick lines off the rhythmic structure, while Diamond mixes chords and single note lines into a solid idea. Perez immediately builds tension through syncopated rhythms and rapid streams of notes, balancing his statement with streams of distinct melodic ingenuity. These tracks find Diamond staying closer to traditional Latin Jazz structures while retaining a strong voice as an arranger and bandleader.
Raising The Bar
Diamond displays a defined and recognizable musical voice on Dançando Com Ale, providing the stabilizing factor for his well-conceived trip through a variety of stylistic approaches. His choice of music from Pascoal, Piazzolla, and Montsalvatge display a broad vision of Latin Jazz, and also a respect for the masters of different genres. The arrangements of these pieces directly connect to the individual traditions, but they also show Diamond’s smart arranging skills. He holds the ability to take songs with a big historical and instrumental background and then turn them into improvisatory vehicles for a small combo without loosing any of the artistic integrity. As a composer, Diamond moves between artistic approaches with style and finesse, proving himself to be consistently assertive, delicate, experimental, and intelligent. His pieces sit strongly alongside the works of the masters as thoughtfully constructed works of art. Diamond’s performance on the guitar channels all these elements perfectly; his phrasing sounds distinctly modern while staying rooted in jazz and Latin traditions. The ensemble collectively builds upon Diamond’s expression, blending their own voices with the overall product. Perez displays impeccable musicianship throughout the recording, setting mood and dynamics with his support while taking a couple of very musical solos. Diamond succeeds in presenting a coherent vision throughout Dançando Com Ale and raises the bar in the genre-crossing modern Latin Jazz world.
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