When Jerry González puts a mute onto his trumpet, the volume of his horn may be turned down a tad, but the tongues of fire that appear to lick out of the bell of his instrument still simmer and burn. The heat is compelling; mesmerising and like a great swirling fire at the heart of a vortex, infinitely beckoning. On Music for Big Band a record that Mr. González made with Miguel Blanco, the leader and bassist from Spain’s Afrodisian Orchestra in 2005, Mr. González is in remarkable form. His control of timbre and the burnished texture of the trumpet are so sublime. It is as if his embouchure compels his lips to caress the metal mouthpiece; indeed the whole of his horn as if it were a woman of irresistible attraction. This animates his expression beyond the pale. Notes are played luscious and full, calling out in husky sensuous tones. Melodic lines pirouette and swirl like the slow-motion twirls and gliding motions in an interminable dance that is set to beguile and hypnotize. Some lines are punctuated by brief wails and howls as if by a woman who cannot wait to ensnare her lover. All of this is swathed in some of the best ensemble playing by a very large and magnificently coordinated big band.
This is the work of unbridled genius; the craftsmanship and skill that seems to scream out from the pen of Miguel Blanco. Who knew that this Spanish bassist had such a sweet sensibility for big band arrangements? Granted his work with the Afrodisian Orchestra is always sharp and edgy; always seeming to be in the vanguard of sound that melds the idiom of jazz, Afro-Latin rhythms and the duende of the Spanish folk form flamenco, but this work is truly special. Mr. Blanco has dreamed a dream in which the soulful force of duende as Federico Garcia-Lorca called it out to be—the wailing cry of a tortured soul—with musical instrumentation that would come alive to make it so. Mr. Blanco uses Mr. González’s horn to light the fire and burn the flesh off the proverbial bone, to bare the crying of the soul; then he uses the woodwinds to assuage the cringing epithelium. Rarely have brass and woodwinds worked so much magic to have such an effect on the tremulous body—from skin to the deepest tissue of the heart and the temple of the inner mind as well.
Flamenco rhythms cajole the feverish body to wake up from the tedium of life and fall prey to the bewitching charms of the quivering duende—the magic of the fibrillating beat. Colours and deeply passionate hues travel by osmosis into the skin, scorching it as guitar and percussion tattoo a beat so captivating that the body will not be denied. The quiet flames of Wayne Shorter’s “Fall” quickly spread to the darkening skies as the music shifts magically from the brutal Spanish landscape to the enthralling musical topography of Africa. Moorish wails and warbles fill the melody of “El Vito en el Congo” with ominous power as the brass and woodwinds in a later chart, “Grana”—a song where Mr. González displays the true magisterium of his playing as does the following chart “Duende y Aché” which catches fire with the monumental magic of flamenco from the first notes and chords accentuated by the elemental howl of trumpet and flute. Miguel Blanco also explores the infinite possibilities of the fluidity of trombones and saxophones from soprano to baritone registers, in a sophisticated interplay with the growling of the bass; the quivering brushwork on the skin of the drums and that too with the caressing of percussion played by hand. The collective voices rise up with the piano even when no words are heard. But then they truly are on “Rumba Pa’ Kenny” as the music swirls around the wondrous bass of Yelsy Heredia and the percussion of Jesús Catalá and Alberto Cabello. It is as if the work of magical musical hands and minds are being offered to the God of music and dance and, indeed, of life itself. And He seems to be well pleased with this masterful display of the work of Jerry González and Miguel Blanco and the numerous musicians who have bled from the heart to make music so divine in praise of the Divine Muse.
Indeed Mr. González appears to be made almost completely of music so profound and beautiful that this work can only be described as genius. The same could also be said of Miguel Blanco who did not simply dream of a big band so beautiful but arranged for it and conducted it into reality.
Tracks: Fall; El Vito en el Congo; Goodbye Porkpie Hat; Nightfall; Grana; Duende y Aché; Rumba Pa’ Kenny.
Personnel: Jerry González: trumpet (1 – 7), congas (4), vocals (7); Miguel Blanco: arranger and conductor; Albert Sanz: piano (1, 5); Alberto Cabello: bongos (3), chékere (7); Aleix Tobias: sabar, djembe (2); Alex Ventura: timbales (3); Ángel Molas: baritone saxophone (2); Ángel Subero: bass trombone (3 – 6); Antonio Peral: alto saxophone, clarinet (1 – 6); Antonio Sánchez: percussion (1, 4 – 6); Cándido Mijares: alto saxophone (7); Carlos Nostro: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet (1 – 6); Dani Pérez: electric guitar (4); Daniel Aldama: vocals (7); David Pastor: flugelhorn (1, 3, 5, 6); Dennis “Huevo” Hernández: flugelhorn (1, 2, 6); Digana “Papin” Olivera: vocals (7); Eduardo Tancredi: piano (2); Fernando Huerdo: trumpet (2, 7); Gorka Benitez: tenor saxophone, flute (1, 3 – 7); Jaume Maristay: tenor saxophone, flutes (1 – 6); Jesús Catalá: percussion (2, 4, 7), vocals (7); Jimmy Jenks: tenor saxophone; Jonathan Badichi: flugelhorn (1, 3 – 6); Jordi Fiol: bass (1 – 6); Jorge Pardo: flute (6, 7); José “Pepe” Espinosa: clave, cata (7); José Luis Monton: flamenco guitar (2), palmas (5); José Pardal: trombone (7); Josep Gomariz: trumpet (2); Juan Chamorro: baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, bass clarinet (1, 3 – 5); Juanjo Arrom: trombone (1 – 7); Lluis Figuerola: trumpet (7); Marc Vila: percussion (1, 4, 6); Mariano Diaz: electric piano (7); Norman Hogue: trombone (1, 3 – 7); Pep Mendoza: electric guitar (1, 2, 3, 5, 6); Pere Enguix “Petete”: trombone (1, 3 – 6); Perico Sambeat: soprano saxophone (2); Raynald Colom: trumpet (3 – 5); Roger Font: trumpet, flugelhorn (1 – 6); Segundo Mijares: tenor saxophone (7); Sergio Bienzobas: baritone saxophone (7); Tito Busquets: drums (2 – 6), cata (1); Vicenç Soler: congas (3); Victor Correa: trombone (1, 2, 7); Yelsy Heredia: acoustic bass, vocals (7).
Label: Youkali Music | Release date: Reissued on May 2012