For the uncontrived and unalloyed delights of string-writing melded with a third-stream-oriented contemporary quintet this—Estrella De Mar—is a recital of a rare and questing elegance. While the ears have become accustomed, in the course of Mario Castro’s short playing career to an ever-greater degree of the warmth of “Latin” sensibility, here is a musician, a tenor saxophonist for whom, in a short-lived journey of experience provides a fast track to the heart of these exquisite (Latin/Contemporary) metaphorical-laden works. The matter of the artisan’s tools (composition and arrangements) here becomes little more than a curiosity, subsumed by performance, even if one is distinctly aware that the modern saxophone encourages distinctive timbral reflexes, such as consistency of colour and a variety of intonation of a well-played tenor saxophone. This is what defines not only Mr. Castro’s playing, but also that of the rest of the quintet, the string septet and the luminous guests. And there are several; all of whom contribute mightily to this recording: Dave Liebman and David Sánchez on soprano and tenor saxophones respectively, Casey Benjamin on vocoder, J Hoard, Jamie Woods on vocals, Emily Elbert on vocals and guitar.
But it is Mario Castro who provides the leadership and sparkle to each of the tracks. He loops in and out of the dialogue of “Pilares,” and “Shmerls,” for instance. There is not a drip of sentimentality here; only deep and beckoning emotion. His stellar turn on “Cry of a Gypsy” is almost unbearably poignant and encourages the strings to sweep in on the action. Never is there a distance between the quintet and the septet; both seem bound by the interminable beauty of the compositions and their arrangements for the string-section. The ubiquitous tenor saxophone is stripped of formulaic signposts. The curvature of his phrases embellishes songs whenever the moment is appropriate. All of this has never sounded as effortless as on “Resentment”. And yet Mr. Castro identifies only with what pleases him in the gestural world of his tenor saxophone. A masterclass on several levels.
But this is no hair-shirt experience. The deft yielding of rubatos in the slow movements afford an irresistible warmth which provide a compelling foil to the directional focus and visceral originality of the other players, especially in the short “Interlude…” and into all of the music that proceeds from it. It is possible to quibble at the lack of brazen upsurges and soaring melismas in most of the songs, but this is undoubtedly music-making which can only ravish in its undimmed personality and artistic ambition.
Track List: Pilares; Shmerls ; Interlude: Cry of a Gypsy; Estrella De Mar; Resentment; Coffee; Interlude: Opposite Direction, Pt. II; Michelangelo; Entrapment; I Miss You; Storyteller; Goodbye
Personnel: Mario Castro: tenor saxophone; Josh Shpak: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tamir Shmerling: upright bass; Kyumin Shim: piano; Jonathan Pinson: drums; Kailey Shaffer: violin; Fung Chern Hwei: violin; Allyson Clare: viola; Brian Sanders: cello; Tania Mesa: violin (1, 3, 5); Anna Stromer: viola (1, 3, 5); Ro Rowan: cello (1, 3, 5); Gabo Lugo: congas, chimes, udu (1, 4); Paulo Stagnaro: iyá, itotele, okonkolo, djembe (1, 4); Casey Benjamin: vocoder (2); J. Hoard: vocal (4); Jaime Woods: vocal (4); Emily Elbert: vocals, guitar (8); Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone (9); David Sánchez: tenor saxophone (1); Meritxell Nedderman: string arrangements
Label: Interrobang Records | Release date: December 2013
About Mario Castro
The Mario Castro Quintet is one of the brightest and up and coming jazz groups of today. The group is led by Mario Castro, a 2011 Berklee College of Music Graduate from Humacao, Puerto Rico. At 26, Castro is already an accomplished musician and has studied with George Garzone, Hal Crook, Terri Lyne Carrington, among others. According to saxophonist Dave Liebman: “…Mario has a gorgeous sound on the tenor and most of all, leadership and passion.” Mario Castro’s debut quintet album; Primavera (2012) was released under Greg Osby’s record label Inner Circle Music. Read more…