Pianist Jose Alberto Medina’s second recording as a leader for Fresh Sound New Talent, one of the few great labels giving good young jazz talent a world-wide voice, is a light yet intelligent collection of piano trio music. Accompanied by bassist Paco Weht and Argentinean drummer Mariano Steimberg, the three interpret 11 different compositions of which all but three are originals by Medina.
Medina’s background includes teaching piano and harmony in Barcelona and modern music in Girona. He has worked with Sheila Jordan, Larry Price, David Mengual, Jon oak Trees and Anton Jarl, to name a few, and studied with artists such as Eric Marienthal, Kevin Mahogany, Sheila Jordan and Conrad Herwig.
Upon listening to this group one can’t help but be captured by the elegance and swiftness of musical thought exhibited by the ensemble. Steimberg’s cymbal work puts him in the top rank of percussionists working today. On "Caminando Sol" his cleanly light and rapidly deft cymbal strokes ignite a delicate fire behind Medina’s poignant phrases. With his ability to mix wit and accessibly understandable lines, Medina at times sounds like a young Vince Guaraldi.
By contrast, the very next cut, "Afrigiando En Si Mismo," is a burner where all three get themselves marvelously dirty. Here Steimberg shows himself to also be a master on the skins, mixing sensitive yet contrapuntally intricate kicks to spur Medina on to his best solo of the collection. Medina tears it up mixing fast and furious scalular passages with bebop lines to create not only a technically perfect solo, but also one that is clever and astute at the same time.
Throughout the recording Weht tends to take the role of willing accompanist. His lines offer touching support as opposed to counterpoint, as on "My Self Portrait." It’s his work on Cole Porter’s standard "I Love You," however, that shows the brilliance of the musician. His ability to double the melody in a sympathetic and compassionate manner, not to mention his truly tasteful solo, is apt argument for Weht’s deserving of his own recording as a leader; not to mention how skillfully he handles the bow on "I Think In Blue."
Those looking for a track with any musical faults will be frustrated to no end. To find three musicians who are so acutely interlocked into their shared music making is rare indeed. They flow as one on "Todo Se Acabo" and turn Kenny Barron’s "Twilight Song" into a composition so personal it’s hard to imagine Kenny didn’t write it for the group. The nice vocalization by Oscar Aresi on "Adormecido" is further demonstration how well they function as a unit. Joining in support of Aresi’s lines, the communication is so clear you can feel the passion coming out of the speakers. All in all, a truly great recording.