Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cultural Survival

Cultural Survival
By David Sánchez
Concord Picante

In a sense, jazz artists are in constant dialogue with their musical ancestors. In the case of David Sánchez’s new CD, Cultural Survival, inspiration from familial and historical sources dovetailed serendipitously, particularly on the cornerstone track: “La Leyenda del Cañaveral.” The resulting album is a searching session of hard to classify music, combining many influences into its musical melting pot.

Though Sánchez employs Latin rhythm and percussion throughout Survival, the overall session often has more of a hard-bop vibe, prominently featuring Sánchez’s heavy Coltrane-influenced tenor. Aside from two guest appearances by Danilo Perez and one from Robert Rodriguez, Lage Lund’s guitar provides Sánchez’s chordal foil in his pianoless group. This gives the musical a funky undercurrent, further contributing to the slipperiness of its genre classification.

Survival opens with “Coast to Coast,” benefiting from the presence of Lund’s guitar in the easy grooving introduction, before Sánchez delivers a surprisingly explorative solo. Perez joins the combo for “Manto Azul,” but blends with Lund quite effectively. The one standard of the session is Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood,” interpreted with respectful tenderness by Sánchez. Survival is richly textured throughout, but the concluding originals carry the greatest gravitas.

“The Forgotten Ones” is a mournful dedication to New Orleanians, featuring a ghostly melody and a passionate solo. Despite being the briefest track, it says a great deal. (It seems like the inclusion of a New Orleans dedication is becoming increasingly common on jazz releases, like Metheny’s recent Day Trip, but if the music is inspired as well as simply well-intentioned, as on Survival, than so much the better.)

The concluding “La Leyenda del Cañaveral” is an extended composition about the African diasporic experience in the Caribbean, sparked by his sister Margarita’s poem “Molasses.” It was performed live with poetic recitations at Zankel Hall, but on this recorded version, the vocal elements consist exclusively of opening and closing chants. It is a dramatic tour-de-force, evolving from one exciting sound to another. An early vamp motif emerges from the chanted prologue, segueing into thoughtful solos from Lund and Sánchez, moving through passages of turbulence and reflection, then reconciling back into the vamp, given a funkier hue from Rodgriuez’s shift to the Rhodes.

Sánchez dedicated Survival to the recently departed Mario Rivera and Cachao, again making an explicit connection between the work of the present and the legacy of those who came before. It is a worthy musical statement that rewards repeated listening.