The long-held view that Florencia González is a woman of substance—a magnificent composer and arranger—were proven combined by startling conducting and leadership, when she released her big band album, Woman Dreaming of Escape. Now there is also further evidence that she can write with distinction for smaller ensembles, such as this sextet on her Zoho Music debut, Between Loves. As if that were not enough, there is also confirmation that she is a fine tenor saxophone player. Hers is a singular, feminine voice, husky and deep. Her breath control is amazing and her notes, played with much fluidity, are sensuous and beckoning. Her instrument appears to be her lover and thus entwined an inseparable for it throughout this album; she seems to make love to it, seeming to caress its curves as each note emerges from the bell of the horn. Yet she does not dominate the tenor as Coleman Hawkins did, but her playing is almost too fragile to bear, informed as it is by moving imagery as fewer notes than most—like Lester Young. She does not solo much on this album, but when she does, the inventions are always unique and memorable like musical double helixes that become entwined by the other horns in the group, or with the bassist, drummer and pianist.
Florencia González’s music is informed by deeply held folkloric ideas, but she can also swing hard. This is also why she is able to meld the folk forms of Uruguay with the jazz idiom. She is also an accomplished Europhile and her compositions are written with masterful counterpoint. This sounds particularly beautiful on “Woman Dreaming of Escape,” a chart from her big band album, inspired by the painting of the same name, by Joan Miró, the celebrated Catalan painter. Ms. González’s song is like the painting of the same name. It is exquisitely complex; an acute balance of sophistication and innocence and a deeply rooted conviction about the relationship between art and nature. It also represents some of Florencia González’s best work for big band or small. It begins with pianist Luis Perdomo’s playing the suggested melody, with the horns, more harmonically inclined, playing contrapuntally also broadly in dissonance with the melody. Later in the song, the horns play in counterpoint with each other. Jonathan Powell’s brass horn and Ms. Shannon Barnett’s trombone followed by Ms. González’s tenor saxophone in a three-way conversation that is full of nervous energy—the consonance and dissonance of each instrument constantly shifting in keeping with the angular geometry of the painting itself. There are also hints of Stravinsky in the monumental approach to composition using striking dissonance. Also of note is bassist Fernando Huergo, who accompanies the lead voices with short staccato bursts interspersed by sinewy legato phrases. By contrast there are other pieces, such as Hugo Fattoruso’s amazing piece, “Hurry.” Florencia González’s version is rhythmically inclined, but also has rich voicings that bring beautiful tone, colour and also subtle shading to the harmony. Thus this version by Ms. González is as memorable as her big band arrangement and, remarkably this small ensemble sounds truly “big” as well.
Florencia González’s other compositions are unforgettable as well. “Zamba for José Gervasio” and “Chacarera for Greg” are full of dancing imagery. Those and “Between Loves,” an allegorical song with a complex dialectic prove that Ms. González writes with great sensitivity and authority and also knows the range of each instrument as well as the players she has chosen for this date. The best example is the song “The One Who Never Was,” based on the changes of John Coltrane’s breathtaking piece, “Giant Steps,” played at breakneck speed, but remarkable with each note that Florencia González plays of the tenor telling its own story. To anyone who loves music including the type that makes for a collision of cultures this album, Between Loves is a boon companion; and a worthy accompaniment to the big band album Woman Dreaming of Escape
Track List: Hurry; Woman Dreaming of Escape; Zamba for José Gervasio; Weird Pericon; The One Who Never Was; Chacarera for Greg; Between Loves.
Personnel: Florencia González: tenor saxophone; Jonathan Powell: trumpet and flugelhorn; Shannon Barnett: trombone; Luis Perdomo: piano; Fernando Huergo: bass; Franco Pinna: drums.
About Florencia González
Florencia González, composer, performer (multi woodwind player, singer), and session musician, leads bands that range from a duo of guitar and saxophone to a 20-piece Big Band. Her Big Band has been together since 2007; playing regularly in Boston until 2011, when it was selected one of the best 5 jazz bands in Boston right before moving to New York, where she established a new Big Band composed by the finest jazz musicians of the city. Parallel to her large ensembles (Big Band and 11 Piece Band), she leads a Candombe Project, which includes horns, percussion, singing and a lot of beautiful tunes from Uruguay and Argentina. This project performs regularly in New York and has been part of a number of jazz and Latin music festivals. Read more…