It may be no surprise that many listeners may not have heard of the Puerto Rican tenor saxophonist Roy McGrath. But it is also no surprise that his writing and playing on Remembranzas is phenomenal. The entire repertoire – built around his Afro-Caribbean Jazz suite written to honour the Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, at the behest of the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center – is graced by Mr. McGrath’s conjuring moments of ink-dark tone textures of often mesmerising stillness that find their way into this music among the virtuoso fireworks is enough to lift the appeal of this release way beyond even the collector’s appeal of Afro-Caribbean music.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Remembranzas
First of all there is an ultra-vivid melodic and rhythmic beauty from start to finish, revealing a level of musicianship that way beyond first class. And then there is the musicians’ response to Mr. McGrath as he makes things happen around himself in a way that many leaders of his generation and others past would struggle to match. It is quiet, but in a hugely inspirational way and it is very easy to hear in the individual responses of pianist Bill Cessna, whose no-frills brilliance is captivating, as is that of bassist Joseph Kitt Lyles, drummer Jonathon Wenzel as well as from percussionists Ivelisse Díaz and Victor “Junito” González and the seductive narration of voice artists – Rossana Rodriguez and Claritza Maldonado.
The repertoire too provides its own recommendation. The suite itself has been brilliantly written and orchestrated by Mr. McGrath, with superbly suggestive arrangements for the pianist, bassist, drummer and percussionists to build from. It all starts with the live-wire opening epic movement “Cancion de la Verdad Sencilla” featuring the lyrical poetry written and narrated by both voice-artists. From here everything else flows superbly. The result is a sparklingly fine eight-part suite deftly crafted with the main idea grafted onto the finale’s close. In between there is music that reaches a pinnacle of sorts in “5/4 Tune (Poema para las Lagrimas)”. But really, everywhere is evidence of exquisite breeziness and quiet profundity which shows the breathtaking and searching imagination of the prodigiously gifted Roy McGrath at work.
Track list – 1: Cancion de la Verdad Sencilla; 2: Por Ti Estoy; 3: Plena Julia; 4: Remembranzas; 5: 5/4 Tune (Poema para las Lagrimas); 6: Mire Asi; 7: Kyky; 8: Burgos en Vida
Personnel – Roy McGrath: tenor saxophone; Bill Cessna: piano; Joseph Kitt Lyles: bass; Jonathon Wenzel: drums; Ivelisse Díaz: barril de bomba-buleador; Victor “Junito” González: congas and featuring Rossana Rodriguez: voice (1); Claritza Maldonado: voice (1)
Released – 2017
Label – JL Music
Runtime – 1:02:33