Carlos Sarduy: Luz

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Carlos Sarduy: Luz
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Carlos Sarduy is a considerably decorated trumpeter, having won a Grammy, two Latin Grammys and a clutch of other awards for his inventive work as a trumpeter. On Luz his compositional abilities have been showcased as well, with all but one of the pieces on this disc having been composed by the trumpeter. The music (bar a couple of tracks) features – in addition to Mr Sarduy – a heavyweight quartet including the incomparable Aruán Ortiz on piano, as well as the staggering virtuosity of Régis Molina on saxophone and congas, Reinier Elizarde “Negrón” on contrabass and Lukmil Pérez on drums. Lionhearted performances are also turned in by pianist Abel Marcel, contrabassist Dany Noel and drummer Mariano Steimberg. And vocalist Kumar Sublevao Beat stars in a vocal tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, while the guitar of Munir Hossn graces the opening track with a subtly beautiful performance.

Meanwhile, the trumpeter is positively aglow on “Interludio Yambú I” and “Interludio Yambú II”. The two interludes are perhaps the most striking pieces on the album not the lease because they feature the trumpeter in solitary splendour. Mr Sarduy’s only accompaniment on the first interlude is a battery of percussion with which he ornaments the work with the tattoo of the “Yambú”, which is a component of one of the most beloved of Cuban dance forms – the “rumba” (no less); the other components of this dance form brought adapted from the Abakuá and yuka African dance traditions melded in with the Spanish-based coros de clave. The music in both develops from a broodingly percussive tumbling groove into a musical event with a glowing trumpet and its rich and rippling grooves and improvisations.

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There is, of course, much more to crow about. And what is striking throughout is the cool, spacey trumpet that leads from the front. This is in stark contrast to the noisy heat that most trumpeters – indeed most instrumentalists – bring to Afro-Cuban – and more broadly Afro-Caribbean – music. Even Mr Sarduy’s wonderful tribute to Fela Kuti – “Afrobeat to Fela” – is also played in a stately manner befitting the King of AfroPop and yet manages to swathe itself in the energetic Africa ‘hi-life’ rhythms without becoming too boisterous. “Latin Flow” features interesting rhythmic turns glued together by tricky tempi changes that never last long enough for them to become predicable. Of course all of this has to also do with the mastery of the rest of the musicians who play Mr Sarduy’s compositions with impressive intuition, soloing idiomatically.

All of this makes for an album with an impressive colour palette, some gorgeously layered harmonic textures and superbly tantalising rhythms. Throughout this recording Mr Sarduy leads from the front, quietly ringing in the changes in mood, structure and tempo. All of this makes for a continuously interesting programme. The superbly mesmerising re-invention of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood”, which is underscored by the wailing trumpet of Mr Sarduy and memorable breaks by the other musicians including a superb one by “Negrón” is given a feel that is both rueful and mysterious. This version compares rather favourably with classic versions by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane as well as with the glorious solo version that Charles Mingus played in Monterey in September 1964. The recorded sound throughout this recording balances detail and warmth making this an eminently desirable album.

Track list – 1: Afrobeat To Fela; 2: Seis; 3: Interludio Yambú I; 4: Moçambique; 5: Latin Flow; 6: In a Sentimental Mood; 7: Timbeco; 8: Dizzytimba; 9: Interludio Yambú II

Personnel – Carlos Sarduy: trumpet, congas (8), percussion (3) and keyboards (8, 9); Régis Molina: saxophone and congas (1, 2, 4, 5, 6); Aruán Ortiz: piano (1, 2, 4, 5, 6); Reinier Elizarde “Negrón”: contrabass (1, 2, 4, 5, 6); Lukmil Pérez: drums (1, 2, 4, 5, 6); Munir Hossn: guitar (1); Abel Marcel: piano (7); Dany Noel: contrabass (7, 8); Mariano Steimberg: drums (7, 8); Kumar Sublevao Beat: voice (8)

Released – 2019
Label – Balaio Producciones (D.L. B 8133-2019)
Runtime – 55:10

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