Terceto Kali is the name of both the trio and the album (Jason McGuire Music). With him in the trio are Paul Martin Sounder on bass and Marlon Aldana on drums. All of the compositions are McGuire originals that incorporate Jazz, Blues and other styles.
The album kicks off with Zardoz. It is performed in a Bulerias style with its fast 12-beat rhythmic pattern. The guitar opens the track (and album) gently and warmly. The flamenco bulerias starts on beat 12 so that the accented beat is heard first. It is considered the best style for improvisation but it requires speed and also a good bit of coordination for the necessary toe-tapping that accompanies the guitar-playing.
McGuire is accompanied by Gypsy vocalist José Cortés in one section as, true to the form, McGuire transitions in and out of several different forms. It is fascinating and it is beautiful and it is powerful.
Ratones Ciegos is a tango but listen to the bass in the intro. Sounder is playing Three Blind Mice! Clever. It is not strictly a tango but is built on a tango. This is a hallmark of the music and writing of “El Rubio.” He doesn’t conform strictly to anything except providing exciting and meaningful listening for his audience.
In the 8:31 of this track, Terceto Kali move effortlessly from one distinctive section into another. The introduction is a rhythmic bit of whimsy that moves into a challenging, dynamic exchange with rhythms and melodic expressions. The third section is more lyrical with a subdued rhythm and bass line. The distinctive melody is carried seamlessly between the parts. A fourth section allows for the bass to carry a melodic line that sounds like the thematic lines from Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. During that section the guitar is quick and energetic with a recessive melody that is fascinating. The final section begins with explosive rhythm and guitar attack. Sounder’s bass is thunderous and the trio pushes tightly and ferociously to the end.
That is followed by the delicate Romance. Written for his dancer wife, the piece is a lovely piece that is bluesy at one point and elegiac at another. It is certainly affectionate and it evokes visions of care and attentiveness and comfort. Aldana’s brushes create a wash of the cymbals and Sounder’s bass is as emotional as the guitar. A delicate and lovely piece.
Mira Mira started as a rhumba but was unfinished before going into the studio. Liking the beginnings that he had, McGuire presented the piece to Sounder and Aldana who began their own work. Aldana laid down the rhythms and McGuire and Sounder started jamming all over it. You can almost hear McGuire shouting “Mira, mira!” at what was happening. Aldana is on fire with a brilliant release of rhythms as McGuire and Sounder vamp and trade. This was a great fun. This was Flamenco Jazz.
A. Liberty is some of McGuire’s most astonishing and thoughtful guitar. It is gorgeous and emotional and is over far too soon.
Contratiempo… A la Luz de la Luna follows the rondeña style, which is an old fandango style. The story of the piece is adorable. When he was first living with his wife, she asked him to compose a song to which she could dance. He watched a video of her dancing, turned off the sound and composed the piece to her movements. It must have been a beautiful sight because it is easy to imagine the movements of the dancer based on the movements of the guitar. Sounder and Aldana are dynamic in their support.
Tio Paco was written in tribute to the great Paco de Lucia. Instead of trying to mimic Paco (who can?), McGuire decided to honor the Master by adding other styles to Paco’s oft-used alegrias form. The results are a bit of funk (listen to Sounder and Aldana) and even some bluesy Gospel. We all miss de Lucia but he must be smiling someplace, if he can hear this.
Zap is in the Zapateado style and it is a great rhythmic structure upon which to build the melodic lines. The familiar Flamenco guitar sounds bounce off amazing chord changes and intricate rhythmic patterns. The guitar is sublimated to the bowed Sounder bass. The bouncing bow provides an instant of percussive pop before Sounder abandons the bow. Aldana plays subdued as McGuire begins to recover the melody. The trio swings in unison for a few bars and the results are amazing. The pianissimo of the guitar for an extended riff is so fine. This was exciting.
Kali is a return to the bulerias style. José Cortés provides the vocals and palmas and Kina Mendez carries the backing vocals with Manuel Guttiérrez also with the palmas. Cortés co-wrote the music with McQuire and wrote the lyrics. Riotously good fun.
Motivation is a more free-form piece. Still containing elements of flamenco guitar and tight rhythms, the trio follows their own directions and improvisations that include moments of lyricism as well as surrealism. It is expressive and introspective at the same time. It is intriguing and mysterious but captivating.
Terceto Kali is one of the most rewarding albums in recent memory thanks to Jason McGuire’s compositional skills in blending so many various styles always with a view to creating something intelligent and creative, emotional and accessible. The trio of McGuire, Paul Martin Sounder and Marlon Aldana are on an odyssey of musical discovery and innovation and “El Rubio” is their Odysseus.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl