Josep Soto is a Barcelona-based musician—a composer and guitarist—of immense promise. This record, Groc, one that comes not long after Parabolico (PICAP, 2001) that featured reedman Paquito D’Rivera and won European acclaim and was nominated for Latin Grammy when Parabolico hit the ground in the US two years later.
Groc is an unusual record. It is a Josep Soto’s not-so-secret and masterful way acknowledging the collision of Spanish music with the music of cultures that Spain, Portugal and other Latin countries set out to influence when they colonized the New World. Uniquely the Spanish music that Soto has experienced grew and cross-pollinated with Argentinean, Brasilian, Cuban and Latin American cultures that had, in turn been burnished with the vitality of African rhythms.
Soto has created a record that cuts a wide swathe around the world of Latin music, with a focal point in Spain, where his own musical experience appears to have grown from. With this as the concept of the record, the guitarist has clothed the music with the swing of delight. This is the swing of jazz. And it is this idiom that Soto has mastered as well. The music on the record describes the roadmap from Spain to Latin America and the Afro-Cuban landscape, indelibly etched in Jazz today.
This session bustles with sound that is both unique and exciting. From the very first track, “Flamenc-Q,” which is a fusion of the Spanish idiom and the Afro-Brasilian and Afro-American ones to Cuban and other Latin rumbas as well as the Argentinean tangos, Groc traverses a world map. “Cherubitango,” is a masterful deconstruction of the tango, recast with a slightly expanded sound scape that includes additional strings to enhance the quartet sound. The title track, “Groc” is a rumba with exquisite soloing from Xavier Figuerola on clarinet and electric guitarist, Guillermo Carrizo.
The music appears to have been written around Josep Soto’s trio—the very funky bassist Cristian Gruner and percussionist extraordinaire, Cidon Trindade. Gruner does a star turns on “Flamenc-Q” and “Groc” and Trindade often sounds like three drummers. The trio music is, on several tracks expanded for up to 13 musicians) and achieves here a true big band sound. Soto’s arrangements are wonderfully interpreted by the string section as well as by the reeds of Figuerola Berta Gassull, who plays oboe. But the real star is, of course, Soto, who brings the fluidity of Baden Powell and the technique and virtuosity of guitar masters from Andalusia and Cordoba to Brasil and Cuba. “Alma,” “Tu Vals,” a swaying waltz, and “Un Ou” a fine examples of Josep Soto’s wonderful technique and virtuosity.
It would be interesting indeed to see what new ground Soto will cover now that he has established credentials as a composer, virtuoso guitarist and master of the polyrhythmic idioms of Afro Latin and jazz. Here is a guitarist who has made waves not unlike those made by Charlie Hunter when he brought his fluid lines to the sound of the instrument.
Tracks: Flamenc-Q; Cherubitango; Groc; Una Cançó; Alma; Tu Vals; Aiguafort; Un Ou; Rei Vindica; Romance.
Personnel: Josep Soto: guitars; Cristian Gruner: electric bass (1, 3–10); Cidon Trindade: drums, percussion; Enric Carreras: piano (1, 3–5); Xesco Grau: flutes (1, 2–4, 10), percussion (1, 3–5); Marcelo Mercadante: bandoneon (2); David Pastor: trumpet (7, 10), flugelhorn (9); Patricia Miranda: voice (10); Xavier Figuerola: clarinet (2–5, 10); Guillermo Carrizo: electric guitar (3, 7); Josep Lluis-Guart: piano, keyboards (2, 6–10); Jorge Sarraute: double bass (2); Alex Puig: violins (2, 3, 10); Imma Lluc: viola (2, 3, 10); Oleguer Aymami: violoncello (2, 3, 10); Berta Gassull: oboe: oboe (2).
Josep Soto on the web: www.myspace.com/josot
Review written by: Raul da Gama