Well on the way to discovering their individual voices four high-school students who call themselves the Guess Who Jazz Quartet decide to place on record nine songs that say who they are right now. You have to respect the courage it takes, the dedication, discipline and enthusiasm that it takes to make a disc. And you will be rewarded for here is music that is forthright, more than merely enthusiastic and not there because the group had nothing to say, but it’s good music that speaks to the character of each of the musicians. Remarkably, even with a revolving door for the musicians in the band, there is also a remarkable sense of cohesion, which is not simply had by playing in a garage.
This is not the music of lesser mortals. It is carefully crafted, picked, as it were, from an enormously grand orchard rather than a family backyard. The music has been wonderfully arranged and it shows off the broad palette of colours and tone textures that inform the saxophonist and flutist leader of the band, Edward Ortiz’s playing. His playing is dry, but not without warmth. You hear none of the vibrato with which many of his contemporaries would be tempted to play. Rather you hear a quiet perfectionist who polishes these songs into small, but brightly gleaming gems. Listen for this in Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” and in Kenny Garrett’s “Happy People”. The Guess Who Jazz Quartet is on song.
I have enjoyed every one of the songs on this disc. Puerto Rican aficionados would do well to take note of the Guess Who Jazz Quartet. Indeed young musicians everywhere would do well to take note. This is not a high-school dissertation. It is an ensemble playing as if they were old friends. Yet the playing here retains a sense of gracious etiquette associated with the noble music conservatoires that now dot the world. These young musicians may not be ready for the big bad world of New York, where every young musician dreams of getting to. But with continued dedication, enthusiasm and a never-say-die attitude they are sure to make it there.
I would be remiss if I did not also speak my mind on the performances of pianist Julio Boria, bassist Richard Peña and of course the spunky drummer, Laura Crespo. Each of these young musicians makes important contributions to the music here. Everything seems right in their sincere and poised accounts of the songs in the programme. They play with an intimacy that is characteristic of musicians who exchange ideas in secret. Their contributions are big-bones and generous and huge overall. I for one would be looking forward to the next record by the Guess Who Jazz Quartet and I suspect that I would not be disappointed. Nor would I be surprised by anything but their own sound of surprise.
Track List: Welcome; Soñando con Puerto Rico; Caravan; Sonar; Para ti; Querube; Isora Club; Amanecer Borincano; Happy People.
Personnel: Edward Ortiz: flute and tenor saxophone; Julio Boria: piano; Laura Crespo: drums and percussion; Richard Peña: bass; Raúl Maldonado: bongó (2 and 9), güiro (4); Ricardo Pons: soprano saxophone (3); Fabiola Mari Méndez: Puerto Rican cuatro (4 and 8); Eguie Castrillo: timbales and congas (5); Rocío del Mar Portes: soprano saxophone (7); Charlie Sepúlveda: trumpet (8); William Javier Machado: drums.