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Coral by David Sanchez

David Sánchez tackles his largest and most complex project yet, one that brings together the resources of major-label funding, a European philharmonic orchestra, Sánchez’s own quintet, the addition of alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón (also born in Puerto Rico) sometimes to form a sextet, Latin American composers, and the respectful, lush string arrangements of Argentinean conductor Carlos Franzetti. Even though Sánchez’s earlier Columbia albums have stressed the polyrhythms of Latin musical forms, the European influences upon South American composers predominate on Coral as Sánchez is called upon to play his part within the arrangements of extended string lines forming the tracks’ harmonic underpinnings, like the slightly diffused matte paintings adding background color and character to sharply drawn animation.

Sánchez’s tone has always possessed a burnished clarity, even as it was addressing intricate rhythmic patterns like those of the bomba and plena forms on his exceptional album addressing the injustices suffered by Puerto Ricans during colonial hardship, Melaza. However, on Coral, that tone turns glossy, at least initially, as Sánchez plays above the strings on changes similar to those of "Dancing In The Dark," "Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar" surprisingly enough written by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The next track, Jobim’s "Matita Peré," attains a similar quasi-orchestral quality, as if Sánchez were the guest performer at a pops concert rather than its reason for being.

Indeed, the music of Coral does merge Latin American and European influences, as it is Sánchez’s intention to present works by Brazilian and Argentinean composers who had studied French Impressionism and incorporated it into their music (as have numerous jazz artists due to French Impressionism’s free nature and its harmonic similarities). And so, frustrating expectations, Sánchez, due to the scope of the project, had made a radical turn from his earlier small-group albums, even though those small groups (with the substitution of John Benitez and Ben Street for bassist Hans Glawischnig) are contained within the larger context of Sánchez fronting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s Latin rhythm intensity we expect from Sánchez, based upon the record he established from his earlier CD’s, and it’s European harmonies and for the most part straight four that we get.

Ironically, Sánchez’s own compositions are the most demanding of his group, even though those compositions don’t start until the sixth track. His "The Elements II," possessing several movements, unfolds from a single motive, one which can be played literally in five seconds, as Sánchez’s and Zenón’s statement transfers to the bass while they elaborate upon the theme. Likewise, his "Canción Del Cañaveral," though starting, yes, Impressionistically with shimmering kaleidoscopic hues, moves deliberately, in an unforced manner after a two-minute introduction, into a percolating section that releases Benitez, drummer Adam Cruz and percussionist Pernell Saturnino into joyous buoyancy which earlier tracks prevent.

Coral solidifies David Sánchez’s reputation as a intellectually inquisitive and artistically accomplished saxophonist, who, like Danilo Pérez, has discovered the validity of his native land’s music and has developed a lifelong fascination with it, no doubt. However, the CD seems to be one of opportunities those opportunities being Sánchez’s productive friendship with Franzetti and their joint interests, continents apart, in pursuing the documentation of mutually appreciated, and fairly obscure, composers. Rather than recording a Coral 2, Sánchez can be expected to find more material for his small group, subsumed on Coral as parts of the notated philharmonic whole.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Sanchez
  • CD Title: Coral
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Columbia
  • Tracks: Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar, Matita Peré, Vidala, Coral, Panambi, The Elements II, Vexilla Regis, Canción Del Cañaveral
  • Musicians: David Sánchez (tenor saxophone); Miguel Zenón (alto saxophone); Edsel Gomez (piano); Ben Street, John Benitez (bass); Adam Cruz (drums); Pernell Saturnino (percussion) Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Carlos Franzetti (arranger, conductor)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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