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Madrid-born and New York-based Marta Sanchez outdoes herself as both a composer and a pianist on her fourth release, the captivating Spanish American Art Museum(SAAM). This elegant and cohesive work showcases Sanchez’s expanded palette of harmonic colors and musical motifs, as well as her superlative pianism and adroit leadership.
The passionate title track opens with Sanchez’s fiery refrains backed by the percolating beats of bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Allan Mednard. A longtime Sanchez collaborator, saxophonist Román Filiu, launches into a simmering, eloquent improvisation over the band’s thundering cadence. In contrast, Alex LoRe’s saxophone style is cooler and brimming with suave poetry. An Iberian lyricism interweaves this spirited ensemble performance.
Sanchez fronts the quintet democratically, allowing her sidemen to shine. On “The Eternal Stillness,” for instance, Carter mesmerizes with a lithe and intricate solo before Sanchez takes center stage, embellishing the main theme with vibrant and dynamic chords.
The most intimate piece on the recording, “Marivi,” highlights the evolution of Sanchez’s writing. An elegiac song dedicated to the pianist’s mother, who was a victim of COVID 19, it features several guest artists. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire contributes mellow, burnished tones while guitarist-vocalist Camila Meza sings evocatively over her own sparse ethereal strums. A lush undercurrent of synths, courtesy of Charlotte Greve, enhances the overall kaleidoscopic effect.
Sanchez is a skillful leader, as heard on the melancholic “The Hard Balance.” The pianist’s erudite extemporization overlaps the saxophonists’ meandering phrases and the tense and subtle rumble of the rhythm duo, which creates a haunting mood. This hypnotic sonic tapestry ebbs and flows around the soloists’ equally mesmerizing flights of melodic fancy. The result is an exquisitely crafted tune that crackles with spontaneity.
On Spanish American Art Museum (SAAM), Sanchez expands her creativity both technically and thematically. A bold addition to Sanchez’s superb discography, the album is testament to her maturing musicianship. — Hrayr Attarian