Some of the compositions arose from Sandoval’s time in Louisville, KY, where he studied for his Master’s Degree in Jazz Composition at University of Louisville School of Music. John La Barbera taught Big Band arranging to Sandoval and it shows. It prepared him for dealing with the 19-piece Big Band on this album. But at the center of the Big Band is the quintet itself. Along with Javier and Francy are Cesar Medina on the sax, Daniel Montoya on electric bass and Pedro Acosta on the drums.
There are so many remarkable aspects of this album. The compositions are exquisite, the arranging flawless, and the performances splendid. The album is at once delicate and lovely, then powerful and hot. This is the music I love.
The album is introduced by Take a Deep Breath by Sandoval. It is an admonition to prepare for what will follow on the album. Pedro Acosta is almost immediately introduced on drums. He is solid and a great fit with this talented group. Pavel Zuzaeta offers up a blistering trumpet solo that is quickly followed by Javier’s own guitar solo. Javier is technically flawless while also presenting a sweetly spirited feeling. The whole band locks it down for the close. I was hooked from the first track.
No voy a quedarme (I’m Not Staying) by Doris Zapata comes after. The flowing movement of the Big Band is effortless and beautifully lyrical. Daniel Montoya’s electric bass lines fashion a cool groove as William Rojas takes on a captivating tenor sax solo that is matched by the trumpet of Orlando Barreda Batanga. The arpeggio theme is worked nicely in and out of the piece.
Little Step is another composition by Javier. The opening of Montoya’s bass matched by Francy’s piano and the rolling thunder of Acosta’s drums is a cool start. The horns fade in and carry the melody as the rest of the band joins in. The deep trombones set the tone that the saxes and trumpets and flute launch from. Rafael Sandoval’s lively alto sax solo is a highlight of the track. Francy provides an excellent support on piano as the sax explores and soars.
Elegia de un sentimiento (Elegy of a Feeling) is Francy’s composition. She is a brilliant pianist and shows herself to be just as brilliant in composition. This is an incredibly lovely piece of solo piano that is then adopted by the flute and horns who echo the original theme. Throughout, however, the piano remains the dominant voice even as the band pushes the theme. Dário Montoya’s flute is a delicate and fitting partner to Francy’s piano. Romantic, emotional and heartfelt, Elegia de un sentimiento is a work of great beauty.
Modal Step (Javier Pérez Sandoval, composer) is exactly what the title indicates, an exercise in modality. Javier’s guitar jumps away from the hot brass and partners with piano, bass and drums for several bars in some of the coolest Jazz moments of the album. The band swells and diminishes and swells again in expressive crescendo behind the guitar. Cesar Medina takes on a fantastic alto sax solo that deserves all the attention it gets. This is a fantastic arrangement and the band takes to it completely. Listen to Pedro Acosta’s drums in the closing moments.
Rio Cali is a Sebastián Solari classic. At only 1:57 in length, it still provides all the energy and life one could ask. The whole band, under the direction of Ricardo Jaramillo, is tight and hot.
El Intensos (Javier Pérez Sandoval, composer) closes the album. The smooth start to the piece belies the hot passages between Rojas’ tenor sax, Javier’s guitar, Acosta’s drums and the backdrop of Francy’s piano. Acosta and Montoya get to set up the exit and they make it count. A great pairing. The album closes as it started, with energy and excitement.
Carrera Quinta has crossed successfully into Big Band arrangements of their brilliant compositions. Their performance artistry is without question and their composing is stellar. The album Big Band is a full-blown expression of the sensitivity, delicacy and emotion that can be achieved by an arranger who knows what they are doing.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl