Luis Muñoz thinks with an open palette of sound. His vision of music is as sweeping as the eye can see and absorbs a wide spectrum of color and tone texture, from the sophisticated rough and tumble of the trance-like sound of Afro-centric worship music to the delightful swing of idiomatic phrases that spring from the joyous spirit of jazz. He also draws from the habanera to the calypso and tangos and rondos and other European forms of ecclesiastical music to the heartfelt emotion of gospel. There may be other composers and musicians who “hear” music like Muñoz, but his background in special geometry enables him to see the sound of music sitting on virtual lines and between spaces. This is why his music—especially here, on Invisible sounds as if the sounds are as close to breathing as musical notes will ever get.
Perhaps this is why Luis Muñoz is able to create such tactile music. It is if reaching out would mean not just encountering its heart and soul through the textures and shades of sound, but also almost feeling the warm as the hand encounters its silken flesh. The surprise is in the fact that Muñoz’s music can be cerebral and yet echo with dancing, trembling feeling. Invisible is about life hidden in the pale. It is about the dispossessed and vulnerable—child, man and woman. Yet it is about hope and the triumph of human endeavor. This extends from end to end of this album and not simply in the five minutes and twenty-seven seconds of “Esperanza” although that song is a beautiful reminder that couched in the everyday blues of Central and South America hope springs eternal.
A fine characteristic of the music on Invisible is that its notes—melodies and harmonies—tumble as if they were accompanying a moving image of life as it traverses through dusty bowls and verdant forests, teeming with life. Its undulation as the music sways and shuffles across soundscapes as ethereal as “Adam’s Dream” that tracks the proverbial story of humankind’s fall from grace, the casting adrift of a dispossessed folk and the emotion of loss through the solemnity of “Sobrevivencia,” the mysticism of “De Alma y Sombra” and the singular rhythmic and harmonic artfulness of “Tango Y Sangre de la Media Noche.” Throughout Muñoz avoids direct use of folkloric forms, although the spirit and mood of many earthy rhythms of Africa and South America inhabit the shadows of the music’s rhythm ever so subtly.
Throughout the human pageant of Invisible there is a sense of simple joy and triumph. This echo is poignantly implied in the music of “Luz del Sur,” and “”Esperanza” and with magnificent abandon throughout “Malabarista” and “Manantial”. The master-stroke is one of production, not in the mechanical sense of how much music sounds today, but in the assembly of musicians who are never still in their ideas and interpretation of this fine musical suite, but, as they dance around each other’s instrumental interplay, the sadness and joy that constantly underlines the songs on the album. This is how the music comes alive—at the hands of Ramses Araya’s batás, the lonesome embouchure of Jonathan Dane’s trumpeting, Tom Etch art’s basses, Chris Judge’s guitar and a host of other stellar musicians who gather to express the music under the masterful direction of Luis Muñoz and his myriad instruments.
Tracks: 1. Adam’s Dream; 2. Luz del Sur; 3. Sobrevivencia; 4. Hymn; 5. De Alma y Sombra; 6. Malabarista; 7. Esperanza; 8. Manantial; 9. Tango y Sangre de la Media Noche.
Personnel: Luis Muñoz: piano (1 – 4, 6, 9), Fender Rhodes (8), synthesizer (1), drums (1, 2, 4 – 6, 8), cajón (1, 2); caxixi (1, 2), bombo legüero (1, 2), djembe (1); chekere (2, 3), percussion (3, 6, 8), Tama (3), alto flute (9), pad (9); Ramses Araya: batá drums (1, 3), cajón, cymbals, bongos (6, 8); Jonathan Dane: trumpet (1, 2, 6, 9); Jeff Elliott: trumpet (6); Tom Etchart: fretless bass (1, 6), electric bass (4, 8); acoustic bass (3, 5, 7, 9); George Friedenthal: piano ( 1, 2, 5), pad (2, 6,); Adam Asarnow: piano (3); Narisco Sotomayor: electric guitars (1, 8); Nico Abondolo: acoustic bass (2); Robert Clements: chékere; Bill Flores: pedal steel guitar (2); Gilberto González: acoustic guitar (2) John Nathan: marimba (2); David Binny: alto saxophone (3); Justin Claveria: tenor saxophone (6); Brad Dutz: quinto (3), percussion (3), marimba (6); Jimmy Calire: Hammond B3 Organ; Lois Mahalia: lead vocals (4), background vocals (4, 8); Chris Judge: acoustic guitar (5), classical guitar (7); Ron Kalina: chromatic harmonica (8); Teka Pendiriche: lead, background vocals (8); Andy Zúñiga: background vocals; Laura Hackstein: violin (9); George Quirin: acoustic guitar.
[audio:http://www.latinjazznet.com/audio/reviews/Luis-Munoz-Sobrevivencia.mp3|titles=Track 3 – Sobrevivencia by Luis Muñoz – From the CD “Invisible”]
Luis Muñoz on the web: www.luismunoz.net
Review written by: Raul da Gama