Antonio Sánchez – New Life

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“In fact when Mr. Sánchez plays, there is a sense, however spectral, that he is playing notes and chords that are pulsed into quantum rhythmic packets of energy that swathe the music he writes and orchestrates. On ‘New Life’ Antonio Sánchez announces his arrival at a point in his music after a monumental odyssey.”

Antonio Sánchez seems to be made almost completely of music. He is surrounded by an aura comprising an ocean of sound that is immersed at one end in the depths of his soul, while the other is a horizon of a musical topography whose end is nowhere in sight. As a percussionist—and he is principally that—he is a colourist non pareil. Sticks, brushes and mallets are extensions of his arms and he plays with his whole body; with sudden jerks of the shoulders and elbows; and sometimes arms that rotate in wide arcs… all these dramatic gestures emerge from a vast palette of colours and hues with which he daubs the notes he plays. Thus Mr. Sánchez emits colourful tones to each ping and swish and rat-a-tat he extracts from skin and cymbal. But he is a lot more than that. Mr. Sánchez is not merely a percussionist. He is also a pianist and a vocalist and this has a major effect on his music because all these facets have a vivid effect on his compositions. There are only a handful of drummers—Brian Blade and the young and emerging Henry Cole among them—like him, who think musically first and then break this down into melody and harmony and rhythm.

In fact when Mr. Sánchez plays, there is a sense, however spectral, that he is playing notes and chords that are pulsed into quantum rhythmic packets of energy that swathe the music he writes and orchestrates. On New Life Antonio Sánchez announces his arrival at a point in his music after a monumental odyssey. This trip has led him through a tradition that echoes in his playing. In that regard there are evocative echoes of the strut and shout of Max Roach and dense majesty of Elvin Jones, but there is also a singularity of voice that emerged long before this record was made. There is a kinesis that comes from deep in the musical intellect of an artist who thinks and dreams in melody and harmony; in lyricism and of voices that rattle and hum in his head. For Mr. Sánchez could be vocalizing his music before it emerges; or declaring it from a pianism that is composed of wild runs and mighty arpeggios that transpose themselves off his piano and tumble onto his drum set, where they become the delicate strokes; the tic-a-tac and the immense crash of cymbals that accentuate the music.

The excitement of this music cannot be understated. The theatrical harmonies of alto saxophonist David Binney and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin on “Uprisings and Revolutions” are couched in spectacular contrapuntal conversations reminiscent of those of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy form his mighty Africa Brass sessions. The beautifully viscous textures of the harmonies melded into the rolling drums suggest towering melancholia that arises from an apparent tension built into the introduction that sets the tone for the likely human struggle which is eventually overcome splendidly in the resolution of the song, at its end. Lest it be suggested that this is music rooted entirely in the efforts of humanity to overcome despair, there is music that is just as exciting and brimful of humour as well. This is superbly displayed in the elements of “The Real McDaddy”. While there is not set theme for the album, the music certainly follows the path that suggests the triumph of human endeavour; not only evident in the melodic and harmonic content of “New Life” but also in “Air”. And then of course there is the musical depiction of myth and legend in “Minotauro” and “Medusa”—one song more beautiful than the next.

It bears mention that this is a spectacular ensemble, which appears to have absorbed the music of Antonio Sánchez with great depth and gravitas. The saxophonists are majestic as lead voices and the pianism of John Escreet is hushed and intense. Bassist Matt Brewer is radiant as well and his clear tone reflected by exquisite rounded notes is a joy to the ear. And there is no way but for Antonio Sánchez going forward.

Tracks: Uprisings And Revolutions; Minotauro; New Life; Night time Story; Medusa; The Real McDaddy; Air; Family Ties.

Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; John Escreet: piano and Fender Rhodes; Matt Brewer: acoustic and electric bass; Antonio Sánchez: drums, vocals and additional keyboards; Thana Alexa: voice.

Antonio Sánchez on the Web: www.antoniosanchez.net

Label: Cam Jazz | Release date: March 2013

Reviewed by: Raul da Gama