Wow, it’s amazing. The review pile is actually getting pretty low. The only problem I’m having is with those CDs and LPs that might have gotten buried under something else, or misplaced during the cross-country move this summer, and then they pop up out of nowhere. I think man, is this still considered new? Did I really miss an opportunity to write a review on something that was really, really outstanding? Here’s one: Quatro, from composer John Finbury. It came out back in May, and I had it weeks or even months in advance. When I first listened it those many months ago, I was quite impressed. Now I recall that I loved the softness of this quartet’s Latin sound, and the vocals were velvety AF, and quite well-matched.
This is an album where four members of a jazz quartet, performing under no particular name, play the music of composer John Finbury. The quartet is actually a piano trio (veteran pianist Chano Dominguez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Antonio Sanchez) with a vocalist (Magos Herrera), who is the aforementioned velvet. It’s a little uncommon to record an album like this–it seems like Finbury wrote some compositions and arrangements, and asked these four musicians to play it so he could record it. This only matters because I really enjoyed Quatro, and I’d like to see this group endure and record more albums. (Checking on their website, it looks like they do have more planned–another hint that I might have waited a little too long.)
What makes this such a good jazz album, especially from a purist standpoint? Okay, John Finbury’s compositions are unusually full of both sound and meaning, and this is basically a piano trio. Pure piano trios need to play big so they don’t sound unnecessarily puny or spaced out. (It’s more fun for the listener as well.) And yes, Magos Herrera has a tremendous voice, so soft and yet so powerful–and so well-suited for the music. (She’s not on every track, and sometimes you miss her.)
What really gets this compact set racing to the finish line is the core, the engine, this piano trio and how they respond to the music of John Finbury. You do get lots of fantastic solos in this album from all three. I’m particularly fond of Patitucci’s vibrant style and how he sounds like he has at least a few dozen ways to pluck a string. When the trio is on fire, going out into the darkness and coming back again, they are simply exhilarating. This is real jazz, in front of a small audience, and it’s everything you’d hope for.
Now…give this quartet a name!