Once again, saxophonist David Sanchez proves he can step outside his Puerto Rican/Caribbean musical heritage without abandoning it. While not wearing his Latin roots on his sleeve, Sanchez has imbued many of the tunes on his recent discs with subtle underpinnings of mostly Puerto Rican forms like the plena, bomba and the seis chorreao and, on top of these, has painted some universal tone portraits with his increasingly maturing technique. Though he remains at times a chameleon-his playing on Traves¡a's opener, "Prince of Darkness," recalls the tenor style of the tune's composer, Wayne Shorter, and the final cut, "The Power of the Word," has Sanchez snaking around a melody not unlike Ornette Coleman-Sanchez is proving that he can flex his own muscle, particularly in arranging and voicing compositions by himself and others. Though no slouch on the horn (the list of his admirers attests to that), his orchestrating abilities reveal a skill to reckoned with. Witness "La Maquina," in which the drive of the title's steam locomotive is achieved without resorting to cheap tricks; "Paz pa Vieques," which features some imaginative and captivating piano/bass interplay; and the "Prince of Darkness," which weaves the group through a brilliantly subtle reworking.
On Travesia Sanchez sticks with tenor, and he is paired on most tracks with altoist Miguel Zenon who helps him create a pleasingly warm, thick harmonic fabric. Their expressive playing on "No Quiero Piedras en Mi Camino" sails effortlessly through this old Cortijo classic, carrying the listener to some dizzying heights without ever losing sight of where they will ultimately land, easing back to restate the melody with absolute control and agility.
Sanchez is still young. If he continues to produce at this level, we are in for some exciting rides.