After a four-year hiatus from recording, tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, now signed to Concord’s “Picante” Latin Jazz division after a decade-long, seven-album relationship with Columbia-Sony, presents Cultural Survival, a recital comprising six original compositions and a pair of Sanchez-ized classics by Eddie Palmieri (“Adoracion”) and Thelonious Monk (“Monk’s Mood”). As on Sanchez’ Grammy-nominated recordings Obsesi¢n (1998), Melaza (2000), and Travesía (2002), on which he deployed the harmonic language and interactive imperatives of jazz to recontextualize the folkloric rhythms and melodies of his native Puerto Rico, the sound matches no previously known “Latin Jazz” category. For one thing, Sanchez writes melodic lines that imply rather than explicitly state the percussion (hand drummer Pernell Saturnino, his longtime partner, performs on only two compositions). For another, vamps and montunos are mostly absent, a function of Sanchez’ decision — in part inspired by a lengthy 2005 tour with Pat Metheny — to pare down from sextet to quartet; guitarist Lage Lund fulfills the harmonic, solo, and unison functions previously executed by pianist Edsel Gomez and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon. On the epic finale, “La Leyenda del Carnival,” inspired by Sanchez’ decade-long immersion in traditional African musical dialects, pianist Robert Rodriguez weaves cross-rhythms into the flow with percussive authority, while on the title track and “Manto Azul,” Danilo Perez and the leader, who turns 40 next month, conduct a sparkling conversation in notes and tones, reaffirming affinities that they first articulated two decades ago, documenting the ongoing refinement and elaboration of their ideas. Not least, Sanchez is one of the living masters of his instrument, a master of pace and dynamics, sustaining a ravishing — call it “Latin” — tone at all tempos.
About the Author
Ted Panken writes extensively about jazz for various publications, including DownBeat and Jazziz, as well as the website www.jazz.com. He's presented it on WKCR-FM in New York City since 1985. He won the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his article "Smalls Universe," published by DownBeat.