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Mario Alberto Silva: Pan-American Sonata



The trumpet of Mario Alberto Silva is one of the first sounds that comes through the speakers when you spin his recording Pan-American Sonata, its superheated, molten notes dominate even the heavy bottom sound of the driving bass line and the effervescent tintinnabulation of Chuchito Valdés’ Fender Rhodes. It’s a sign that with nimble technique, Mr Silva is calling upon the ancestors and the communion of saints to sanctify this recording. In doing so Mr Silva is invoking the continuum of music; not simply Latin-American music – as you might imagine when you glean from the notes that he is of Nicaraguan ancestry; but what Mr Silva is in fact doing is tying up the ends of all American music up to and beyond the colonial era in a long line that arrives at the modern expression of Jazz.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Mario Alberto Silva: Pan-American Sonata

He uses the term “sonata” in its broadest and most modern sense here by tying everything – music and instrumentation – into one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music (the other being the fugue, of course). And even if that term “sonata” has always been a vague one, with varying meanings depending on the context and time period in this case it has come to represent a principle of composing large-scale work – one that ties the various influential styles of music from the entry of the colonialists into the continent. Thus you never have sequences that precisely “Latin-Jazz” or “Caribbean” or “Jazz” (from New Orleans to Kansas and New York to Chicago and everything in between). You do, however, get a sense of a shifting earth that releases its energy through the shuffling of feet a humanity that is dancing to the rhythm of the Americas.

All this makes for an in-your-face wall of sound during which the eight movements constantly shift from one accent to another while maintaining a masterful hybrid that is rooted in the rhythmic pulse that first echoed in the Africa that was brought to the Americas. There is a constant moving back and forth between dance forms that evoke the heat and dust of the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora – such as “Mario Cha”, but just when you think that this is where the music is heading for the conceivable future, the proceedings turn dramatically to evoke the second line shuffle of New Orleans. All this would seem logical given that you can draw a gently curved line – if not a straight one between the Caribbean islands and Louisiana. But before you know it we’re off – as it were – with the subtle doffing of the proverbial hat to the people of Nicaragua and other Latinamerican countries in “Phrygian Cap”, a track inspired by the appearance of that ancient symbol of Liberty and rebellion on social media during the recent protests in Nicaragua. And as if that were not enough the concluding three movements of this sonata dig deep into the Afro-Cuban consciousness.

This seemingly exaggerated musical journey from the African and Aztec drumming to the rhythm of funk and rap can be quite a heady experience – even dizzying – but it is this very exaggerated bouncing from island to mainland (if you will) that makes Pan-American Sonata seem full of elasticity and vigour. And this, after all is how a continuous line of music brings us from Mother Africa through Europe to present-day America. That “continuous line” is, in fact, rarely straight and it is that very seemingly squiggly path that makes what we hear on this recording so fascinating and authentic. The “big” names here may be the trumpeter, Mr Silva and Chuchito Valdés, son of the famous Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés and grandson of the legendary Bebo Valdés (who ruled the dynasty). But by the time you get to the invocation to “Obatalá, Ochún y Yemayá” and finally “Colector” the honours for this music go to all the musicians who interpret it all in a hard-hitting, brash and dynamically-contrasted style that deserves our undivided attention.

Track list – 1: Porque Reir Porque Llorar; 2: Mario Cha; 3: The Red Light Rag; 4: Blue Dream; 5: The Phrygian Cap; 6: Intenciones; 7: Obatala, Ochun y Yemaya; 8: Colector

Personnel – Mario Alberto Silva: trumpet and flugelhorn; Chuchito Valdés: piano, synths and batá drums (8), and Fender Rhodes; Aaron Germain: acoustic and electric bass; Josh Jones: drums and percussion; Michael Solomon: acoustic guitar (1, 5); Tim Lin: tenor saxophone (4); John Dahl Honoré: melodic synths (5); Anthony J. Sierra: batá drums (Director) (8); Remy Spiro & Akheel Mesayer: batá drums (8); Sergio Durán: percussion (8)

Released – 2019
Label – Nomolos Productions
Runtime – 41:26

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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