Both dedicatory albums by Alex Conde – Descarga for Monk and now, Descarga for Bud – are ineffably compelling [as only the prodigious Mr Conde is capable of]. His performance of the repertoire – more specifically, his interpretation of some of the 20th century’s greatest music by two of the era’s greatest pianists, no less – inhabits realms far above the mundane. The music soars [as it once did] on spiritual flights and journeys through disparate worlds at once zealous, reflective, and transcendent. The thread that connects Mr Conde’s world and that of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell glistens, gossamer-like and evokes all that is great and historic about the period that was inhabited by the two pianists with his [Mr Conde’s] world – both of which are rich in the inflections of Africa, and [in the case of Mr Conde’s world] the Arabic peninsula and the impact of both on Spain.
It is just this web of musical rhythms that makes Mr Conde’s work so marvellous and compelling. The qualities of the bulerías, tangos and alegría – where voices of musicians urge and propel the musician and the music into the mystical world of duende – make Mr Conde’s homage to Bud Powell perhaps the most apt tribute [ever] to a musician who may have been lionised in his day, but – like Herbie Nichols – was in and out of the great shadow of Mr Monk. Each seductive re-arrangement of Mr Powell’s composition is brilliantly done on paper. Moreover, with performances in Mr Conde’s native idiom, the black dots lift off the page and fly and dance in the air around the music listening room like mad dervishes drunk with bebop. Although one would be hard-pressed to isolate a favourite for special mention, one would risk suggesting a few that stand out for different reasons:
The first is “The Fruit” and its companion bulería-driven pieces, “Parisian Thoroughfare” and [especially on] “Celia”. The propulsive rhythmic nature of these arrangements takes the music to the very core of the duende of flamenco; one where the [works] emotion quite literally seems to bleed – as if ripped – right out of the heart of the melodies. Meanwhile, “Dusk in Sandu” evokes a series of haunting scenes that must have played out in Mr Powell’s head when he was writing it. This is surely the case in “Hallucinations” and in “Tempis Fugit”. The writing here abounds in poignant lines and dramatic flourishes not only for the pianist, but for all the instruments as well.
Mr Conde is an exceptional artist, whose musicianship and pianism are redolent of a shimmering sense of sonority and the ability to find a keen balance between poetry and intensity. With these unique qualities And an ensemble so completely attuned to his vision and artistry, it’s no wonder that we have with us an album to die for.
Track list – 1: The Fruit [buleria]; 2: Oblivion [tangos]; 3: Bouncing with Bud [alegría]; 4: Dusk in Saudi [soleá]; 5: Wail [calypso]; 6: Parisian Thoroughfare [bulería al golpe]; 7: Hallucinations [latin/jazz]; 8: Tempis Fugit [rumba]; 9: Celia [bulería]
Personnel – Alex Conde: piano and arrangements; John Santos: congas and bongos [2, 5, 7, 8]; Jeff Chambers: contrabass; Colin Douglas: drums; Sergio Martínez: cajón and djembe 1 – 4, 6, 9]; Mike Olmos: trumpet [1, 8]; Jeff Narell: steel pan ; José Luis de la Paz: guitar [2, 6]
Released – 2021
Label – SedaJazz Records [V-436-2021]
Runtime – 54:42