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Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: Vox Humana

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Bobby Sanabria
Composer, Drummer, Bandleader Bobby Sanabria

To the iconic composer, drummer, and bandleader, Bobby Sanabria who leads – proverbially and literally – from the front, The Multiverse is a living metaphor created to describe the world in which Mr Sanabria lives and breathes. The Multiverse is the motherlode of all Mr Sanabria’s creations. It is the magnetic centre to which he attempts – successfully, one might add – to draw anyone who has the ears to listen. Therefore, in it, although he draws a myriad of musicians into his wake, he is the proverbial town crier because is the greatest – and loudest – advocate of this place with breezy rhythms, loud melodic incantations and [often] impossibly breathtaking harmonies, made of a multitude of pieces of music – ensemble and solo – that are somehow, magically made to fit. While the capital of this so-called Multiverse is Puerto Rico, its geosphere spans not only the entire Afro-Caribbean diaspora but [in the music of Mr Sanabria] spans the whole musical universe. And now, that Multiverse echoes with one voice – Vox Humana.

If you think that Mr Sanabria is going to let the rest of dancing mankind rest outside the Multiverse, you may have another thought coming as Mr Sanabria’s musical mission – here and on other albums as well – is to draw audiences to him. He does this to loud exhortations at the start of songs, in the middle of songs and – with great theatrical flourish [like Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and other legendary bandleaders from the Afro-Cuban ionosphere: Machito, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente] at the climactic finale of songs. The music on these two discs forming this musical palimpsest – Vox Humana is very much in this vein. The brass is infectiously loud [mostly], as are the woodwinds and the vocalists, who have to – and are loud, but elegantly so. They must be, if they aim to seize the day and stand tall in the front of this band, wresting the surging, incandescent energy from the band when vocalists are called for to embellish the brilliant instrumentalism.

Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: Vox Humana
Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: Vox Humana

The explosive combustion of this music is provided by, of course, Mr Sanabria from his drum set [how its tales such as beating at his hands and survives is a miracle, but that is the exact nature of this music that Mr Sanabria and his ensemble the Multiverse Big Band creates: it is miraculous in every sense – rhythmic, melodic and harmonic. [Cue Puerto Rico and Partido Alto from disc one and Amazonas, Spooky and Mi Congo disc two] It is, after all, a geosphere teeming with symphonic musical life. And at the centre of all this sits its Master of Ceremonies – Mr Sanabria, yelling, cajoling, exhorting, and singing his way through the music on these two discs as he beats his living tattoo from drums and percussion.

But this double album is entitled Vox Humana, remember? And so, it is packed with the magical vocals of those who Mr Sanabria elevates to vocal Blues and Jazz royalty: Antoinette Montague and Janice Siegal and another glorious vocalist who combines every style into liquid vocalastics: Jennifer Jade Ledesna. The beauty of this album would not be quite the same without their voices. This is an evocative – and necessary – way, on the part of Mr Sanabria, to insert himself into the musical continuum, which contains all the historic styles that this music covers. Necessary because it is, after all the proverbial Vox Humana. Mr Sanabria is, after all, not simply a musician who is at the centre of this continuum, but also one of its most avid and long-serving students.

Both discs are testaments to Mr Sanabria’s standing not just as a Puerto Rican [or Nuyorican] musician. They are part of the composer and drummer’s ongoing testament that with all music revolving around the majestic beat of the African Drum, it nevertheless belongs to the world – his Multiverse. In it we find that the Mr Sanabria has drawn to himself, other fine musicians that you may – or may not – have heard of because many of them have been hiding in plain sight either because they are too busy being itinerant journeymen embellishing the music of others, or are better known because they are pedagogues] – like trombonists Noah Bless and Chris Washburne, saxophonists Jeff Lederer, David Dejesus and Peter Brainin, bassist Leo Traversa and of course, vocalists Antoinette Montague, Janis Siegel and Jennifer Jade Ledesna, and the proverbial revelation, violinist Ben Sutin, not to mention the other unsung heroes in the rest of this superb ensemble. There are lot more musicians and performances that make this album one to die for, but you are going to have to listen – and listen hard – to this music for yourself… and you too will be seduced.

Deo gratis…

YouTube Playlist – Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band

Music – Disc One – 1: Caravan; 2: Capullito de Alelí; 3: Puerto Rico; 4: Partido Alto; 5: Let the Good Times Roll; 6: Who Thought You That; 7: I Loves You Porgy. Disc Two1: Genie in a Bottle; 2: Amazonas; 3: Spooky; 4: To Be With You; 5: Do it Again; 6: Mi Congo.

Musicians – Rhythm Section – Bobby Sanabria: music director, drums, mounted bells, wind chimes, background vocals and vocal exclamations; Oreste Abrantes: congas, lead and background vocals; Matthew Gonzalez: bongo/cenceto [hand bongo bell], barril de bomba, requinto panderata, ganza, Puerto Rican guacharo, agogo and background vocals; Takao Heisho: Cuban guiro, agogo bells, claves, cuica, pandeiro, maracas, shekere, tambourine and background vocals; Darwin Noguera: piano; Leo Traversa: electric bass; Trumpets –  Marc Darche [lead], Matt Hilgenburg, Jonathan Challone, Andrew Neesley; Trombones – Dave Miller [lead], Noah Bless, Armando Vergara, Chris Washburne [bass trombone]; Saxophones – David Dejesus [lead alto and soprano – 1 disc one], Andrew Gould [alto and flute], Peter Brainin [tenor and maracas on Spooky and Do It Again], Jeff Lederer [tenor], Danny Rivera [baritone]; Gabriel Garo: flute; Ben Sutin: violin; Lead and Background Vocals – Janis Siegel [3 on disc one, 1 – 6 on Disc Two], Antoinette Montague [lead on 5, 6, 7 Disc One and 6 on Disc Two] and Jennifer Jade Ledesna [lead on 2, 4 Disc One and 6 on Disc Two]; Desmond Prass: announcer.

Released – 2023
Label – Jazzheads [JH1266]
Runtime – Disc One 45:34 Disc Two 38:49

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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