Diego Urcola Quartet – Appreciation (CAM Jazz/Sunnyside – 2011)

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Diego Urcola’s is a voice that remained somewhat hidden—certainly tucked away—for two decades in Paquito D’Rivera’s quintet. And then there was the subdued role he played in Los Guachos, the fabulous larger ensemble. However the graceful candour of his voice is irrepressible and it was only a matter of time when he would be heard for what he really is and plays. Urcola is distinct and a singular artist in the manner of his more famous countryman Leandro “Gato” Barbieri. The trumpeter plays with sensuous swagger and digs deep into his own soul for even the slightest note. This mortal risk-talking is something Barbieri is well-known for and with his own immaculate sense of grace, absolutely bereft of inhibition Urcola begs favourable comparisons with the much older tenor saxophonist.

The trumpet resides in a cluttered world and not even its softer relative, the flugelhorn, can serve to set horn men who favour this burnished brass instrument apart from the pack that always seems to advance like the frontline of an ancient army. Still, someone like Charles Mingus was able to pick Thad Jones, and more significantly, the mysterious, Clarence Shaw from out of the clutter. Jones he called Bartok with valves and Shaw’s language and phrasing left him breathless. Then there is Wallace Rooney, and Arturo Sandoval. To these must be added the name of Diego Urcola. To understand why this is so, it pays to peruse Urcola’s most recent solo date Appreciation.

Here is an example of a gargantuan challenge, one where the artist has chosen to pay homage to a host of his peers and mentors: wholly different characters that have pursued widely divergent paths. And yet Urcola brings it all together, to fruition, so to speak with a mighty effort that defines each musician—from Freddie Hubbard to Hermeto Pascoal, Guillermo Klein to John Coltrane and Astor Piazzolla. In doing so, Urcola traverses the soundscape of Lydian modes, bebop, the Brasilian “partita alto” and the wildly inventive metres of Klein using what the Guachos did—7+7+7+3. The tribute to Woody Shaw and Dizzy Gillespie, “Woody ‘n Diz” offers a masterful use of the flatted fifth, while “El Brujo” sings of the fire and irrepressible creativity of Pascoal in that rarely used Brasilian rhythm. Urcola’s tribute to his long-term employer, D’Rivera is an astounding “Milonga” song-style in the manner of Astor Piazzolla.

Urcola is blessed to have the artistry of pianist, Luis Perdomo, a master of that elusive Latin rhythm that actually resides hidden in the melody and is only brought forth by superlative “tumbao” something few pianists possess. Drummer, Eric McPherson is truly a revelation in the deft manner in which he negotiates the maddeningly complex rhythms, especially that invented by Guillermo Klein in a 7+7+7+3 part. He is no doubt aided on “The Natural” by Yosvany Terry on chekere, but then there is the “partido alto” and all the other tantalizing modes that follow. And of course Hans Glawischnig too makes up the wondrous quintet recording.

Tracks: 1. The Natural (to Freddie Hubbard); 2. El Brujo (to Hermeto Pascoal); 3. Milonga para Paquito (to Paquito D’Rivera); 4. Super Mario Forever (to Mario Rivera); 5. Guachos (to Guillermo Klein & Los Guachos); 6. Deep (to Astor Piazzolla & Miles Davis); 7. Senhor Wayne; 8. Woody ‘n Diz (to Woody Shaw & Dizzy Gillespie); 9. Camilla (to John Coltrane).

Personnel: Diego Urcola: trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone, vocals; Luis Perdomo: piano, Fender Rhodes; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Eric McPherson: drums; Yosvany Terry: chekere (1, 8).

Diego Urcola on the web: www.diegourcola.com

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