As a composer Tsukamoto was inspired, while studying in Japan, by the South American Nueva Cancion (New Song) movement, and brings these sensibilities to the ensemble’s repertoire as chief composer and visionary. The real strength of the ensemble’s sound is the light and breezy melodies Tsukamoto is able to create for the various instrumental configurations. They are fresh, subtle and instantly likeable and the rotating cast keeps the soundscape from becoming repetitive. The group’s young musicians certainly understand the music and perform the melodic passages with grace and sophistication belying their youth; the oldest can’t be close to 30. The use of one or two vocalists, at various times, gives the ensemble a sweet sound reminiscent of the early recordings of Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 or Walter Wanderley. Both Marta Gomez and Alejandra Ortiz have a clear vocal technique which perfectly suits Tsukamoto’s graceful lines, and the women’s individual voices, while not matching, fit superbly together in a complementary fashion on this material.
Drummer/percussionist Franco Pinna’s work deserves special attention. His cymbal playing ranks with some of the best recorded last year. In it is found the perfect example of how a light stick touch, played across and delicately through individual cymbals, can have just as much strength of statement in soft passages as the best loudly-powerful speed-metal drummer.
The trouble with the disc is best summed up by noted jazz drummer Joe Chambers, as quoted in the August 2004 issue of Downbeat magazine. On a totally different topic, but no less true here, he was quoted as saying, "Traditionally, jazz artists have apprenticed in bands. But today that’s not happening. That’s what’s wrong with jazz now." In this recording each of the musicians easily shows great promise and potential, but they do, unmistakably, sound green. While they perform nicely and the overall playing is appealing, each of the individual musicians still sound, for the lack of a better word, inexperienced. It just does not sound like they have come up with their own identifiable concepts, and thus the playing of the melodies goes well, but not all of the solo sections. For example, you can hear Tsukamoto working out his improvisational concepts during his solo on El Otro Lado del Mundo and trumpeter/flugelhornist Dan Brantigan gets a little iffy with his tone and air flow, beyond being emotive, during his solo on Summerville.
These problems aside, this recording is a good effort these rising young musicians will be able to look back upon with smiles when they become old and grizzled musical veterans.