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More or less a live studio jam session recorded in Havana, Espontáneo (as in “spontaneous”) was put together by producer-guitarist Dayron Ortega Guzmán and his friends, guitarist Maykel Elizarde and percussionist Eduardo Silveira. With Guzmán calling the tunes, the trio created a gritty, appealing nine-track sampling of Afro-Cuban grooves and song forms with deep folkloric roots. The acoustic instrumentation also speaks to earlier traditions, as does Elizarde’s use of the tres, with its six paired strings, a staple of Cuban son.
But despite this trad set-up and Elizarde’s reputation as a “virtually unknown” newcomer from “a remote village” (his previous CD, South County, was also on Ansonica), the album betrays his sophistication. With his warp-speed runs and prog-rock-ish key modulations, he’s certainly heard Pat Metheny and Paco da Lucia — or players like them. In any case, he’s clearly the star of the session, with Guzmán mainly confining himself to rhythm chords and bass lines, and Silveiro laying down grooves defined by assured hand-drum-and-shakere pop-and-hiss polyrhythms.
Those grooves keep everyone focused, even the wizardly Elizarde. The flamenco-derived zapateo “Jugando con la Nota,” credited to Elizarde and Guzmán, glides on a rustic dance-floor tunefulness. Chucho Valdés’ “Mambo Influenciado” pays allegiance to that master pianist-composer’s ability to dig deep and transform traditional forms.
Everywhere, Elizarde displays his ability alternately to charm and inspire awe with his compelling mix of riffs, chords and lightning runs. And the five-minute tres-solo improvisation finale confirms his broad range of references, including a few phrases of Albéniz’s “Asturias.”
But perhaps the most satisfying track is Guzmán’s leisurely eight-minute bolero “Son Pa’ Gozar.” Here the slow groove holds steady, even when Elizarde breaks into double and triple time, and every modulation and crescendo supports an unfolding narrative that engages with emotional depth as well as technical flash.— Jon Garelick
Featured photo by Michel Labrie.