The eleven top-flight New York musicians who make up Los Guachos are basically led by the main composer of the group, Argentine pianist and vocalist Guillermo Klein. A Berklee College of Music graduate, Klein, who spends quite of bit of time in Argentina, has the musical credentials and peer-recognized musical and aesthetic abilities to gather round him the best of today’s New York musicians. It’s not for just anyone musicians like saxophonist and flutist Miguel Zenon, guitarist Ben Monder, drummer Jeff Ballard and trumpeter and valve trombonist Diego Urcola will stop what they’re doing and congregate to perform Klein’s music.
While some might like to label the music as Argentine, it’s actually much more than that and not quite that at the same. Building off of a true South American base, with the injection of jazz’s mid-size ensemble concepts, Klein creates compositions that whirl, dive and swoop in so smooth a fashion it’s as if one is listening to a musical kite as it glides lightly through the air. While there is an obvious Latin flair to the music, it’s not out front. The music is much more subtle and rhythmically varied.
For example, compositions like the mid-tempo "Miula" and the down-tempo, at least at the beginning, "Memes," which was written by trumpeter Taylor Haskins, work more to establish moods first rather than expound on a certain musical style. From the swirling motivic fragments that make up these pieces the soloists are able to then voice their own sound in a manner that pays respect to the composition as well as their own harmonic language.
A true highlight of the disc is Monder’s quasi-psychedelic, and at the same time extremely romantic, think historical style not love, solo on "Memes." He breaks up the composition’s initial bits into even small chips that he then rearranges into long kaleidoscopic chunks before turning the piece back to it’s origins. It’s a journey that only someone as skillfully musical as Monder could produce.
Most astonishing about the music is how Klein is able to craft soundscapes that play to his musicians’ strengths. It’s just too obvious that he carefully picks who solos on what pieces. The result is always as a strong a statement as one would expect from each of the soloists on their own recordings as a leader.
As a pianist Klein is a tasteful added voice, preferring to allow his arrangements do the work. As a singer his voice is warm, melancholy with just enough blues feel to give him a soulful feel. This is a recording that will not only delight, but like so much of Bob James’ early work, you will hear more and more things in the music the more you listen to it.