Gabriel Vicéns has a vivid and idiosyncratic affinity for the guitar as can be heard on Days, a disc that spans what might seem like many hours of illuminated activity in a studio. The New York based Puerto Rican musician and guitarist writes in a style that might be termed rugged lyricism, with near-vocal lines and harmonies taking unpredictable directions. A certain sonic pungency – that stems from his complete immersion in the Puerto Rican tradition encompassing everything from Jibaro to Danza. Now in New York city there is a distillation of those rhythmic idioms with imaginative touches throughout, into the roistering Nuyorican experimentalism.
The music of Days is informed by the electric brightness that comes from inspired work not only with the pen, but with the fingers that manipulate guitar strings at the fretboard and on the body with a dramatic synching of both hands. The songs are longish, allowing the guitarist and the other principal melodists to stretch the elasticity of the music to the maximum. Meanwhile almost imperceptibly Gabriel Vicéns uses vivid tonal colours wrapped around melodies in ways that suggest the challenges that the use of mixed metaphors (Jazz and Latin) often presents. “Morph” is a fine example of this kind of playing. Meanwhile in “Doing Circles” the voices of Gabriel Vicéns, Jonathan Suazo on alto saxophone and David Sánchez on tenor saxophone together with Alex Sipiagin on trumpet explore the various hues of the piece in close communication.
“Breaking Through Shadows” is a portentous work. Its necessary shadowy melodic inventions are vividly transposed to a rhythmic base that hold up the dark canopy of the harmonic interaction between the performers in the septet. The playing through is sublime, operating interpretatively on different, perhaps healthier planes that what others might be able to achieve, and in an authentic Latin-Jazz sort of way. The intensity is real and sounds gorgeous, the rhythms infectious, not the least because of the presence of Paoli Mejías‘ muscular percussion. It’s the kind of music that would drive an audience wild if performed on stage.
Gabriel Vicéns is an exceptional artist, with a shimmering sense of sonority and the ability to find a keen balance between poetry and intensity. With the rest of the ensemble providing their own superb brand of animation, this recording also stands out as a meeting of equals.
Track List: El Teatro; Days; Morph; Prelude to Amintiri; Amintiri; Doing Circles; Comprehend; Breaking Through Shadows; Justice.
Personnel: Gabriel Vicéns: guitar; Jonathan Suazo: alto saxophone; Bienvenido Dinzey: piano; Dan Martínez: bass; Leonardo Osuna: drums; David Sánchez: tenor saxophone (1-3, 6-9); Alex Sipiagin: trumpet and flugelhorn (1-3, 6-9); Paoli Mejías: congas and shaker 2 & 8).