Nothing should surprise you about music by Edsel Gómez, except that the music is always a surprise. His music jumps at you in a way that harks back to the music of Charles Mingus. It is made up of seemingly disparate changes which are always connected. It thrives on abrupt changes in tempo so that you never know what’s coming round the turnpike. There is a lot of Thelonious Monk in him. His lines are slanted and brilliantly angular; almost full of delightful whimsy. Chords poke you in the eye. Melodies wrap around you and wriggle at your ribs. So full of such physical delights are his harmonies and rhythms that he is almost too elusive to define. And because the pianist is impossible to box in he is also impossible to keep track of. He plays with such impetuosity that you want to corral him but then you realise that is a futile endeavour because it is such a delight to let him soar free of the constraints that seem to bother so many rather good pianists that they get bogged down and soon become bereft of ideas.
Edsel Gómez’s Road to Udaipur is a sumptuously laid out album. Not only is the package bursting with myriad colours, but so is the music. Mr. Gómez’s palette is broad and bottomless. Colours seem to spring from nowhere and before you know it you are swathed in a diaphanous musical tapestry that is both fantastic and palpably beautiful. Titles are odd. (Where on earth does “Ninibilo Majulolo and the Bridge” come from? A fantastic land beyond “Udaipur” perhaps). But don’t spend too much time agonizing over this. Rather give yourself over to the charms of the music. The performances here have a swagger and brio and in, for example, the very first track – “Tertulia Samba”, an endlessly beguiling nuance, colour and cantabile. At times Edsel Gómez’s fist-rolling frenzy reminds me of Don Pullen’s, but here he displays an even greater wealth of poetry and inflection, while maintaining an almost mythic sense of impulse and continuity. In “Spain-ished Cubes” he is heaven-storming at the climax of the first half of the piece and white-hot towards the end where everything is driven to its exultant limit.
True, Edsel Gómez gives in to the splashy and the cavalier, but that comes from worshiping at the altar of bebop. Listen to “Search and Build” written on the changes for Charlie Parker’s “Donna-Lee” and you will hear what I am talking about. But even here his technique remains monumental and all-embracing. This is true of the piece in question, played with brilliant fury and delicate tracery as well. Just when you expect Mr. Gómez to let up, he follows that song with another wonder of scintillation: “Ninibilo Majulolo and the Bridge” that maddeningly bizarre titled piece where the rhythms of bebop and maracatú collide. There are few living pianists who could play with such abandon and personal commitment. By now you become aware of the different colourings of the registers, from the burnished resonance of his bass (left-hand) lines and the sweetly tinkling upper registers that belong to his right hand, you wonder if there is any more dazzle that can be infused into his pianism. Then you become aware of the halo around the sound of this instrument that leaves you breathless. Engineering by Chris Gilroy, Giba Favery, Helio Kazuo Ishitani and Tom Lazarus is top-drawer matching Edsel Gómez’s superb musicianship.
Track List: Tertulia Samba; Udaipur; Homesick Nostalgia; Search and Build; Ninibilo Majulolo and the Bridge; Four Seasons and a Five; Spain-ished Cubes ( for Chick Corea); On Second Thoughts; Charles Chaplin; Smile On; Bahia; Brothers; The Chant.
Personnel: Edsel Gómez: piano, clave, timbales, hand drill, stone filled bucket and bells; Bruce Cox: drums; Fabio Tagliaferri: viola; Roberto Pitre Vázquez: flute, piccolo and vocals; Walmir Gil: trumpet and flugelhorn; Nahor Gomes: trumpet and flugelhorn; Felix Gibbons: congas and speech; Edu Martins: acoustic bass; Alex “Apolo” Ayala: acoustic bass; Sizâo Machado: electric bass; Arismar do Espirito Santo: electric bass; Roberta Valente: pandeiro and triangle; Chacalzinho: pandeiro, berimbau, udu and triangle; Tuto Ferraz: drums; Douglas Alonso: drums; Freddie Bryant: acoustic guitar; Cássio Fereira: alto saxophone; Felipe Lamoglia: tenor saxophone; Roberto Araújo: oboe.
Main photograph: mikaphoto.net
About Edsel Gómez
2007 Grammy award nominee Edsel Gómez is today one of the premier Latin Jazz pianists in the world. Born in Puerto Rico in 1962, he began piano studies at age five. He grew up in a musical environment that allowed him to master Afro-Caribbean rhythms in depth, working since childhood with an incredible array of Latin music idols such as Marvin Santiago, Celia Cruz, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, Santitos Colón, Cheo Feliciano, Roberto Roena, Willie Colon, Ismael Rivera Jr., Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Olga Guillot, Lola Flores, Marco Antonio Muñíz, among many others… Read more…