If this record had ended after the first track, I would have felt comfortable calling it the schmaltziest so-called jazz recording yet to hit the market this millennium. As it happens, the saccharine content lowers somewhat as the album went on. By the fourth cut-the title track, based on a composition by Heitor Villa-Lobos-I actually found things to like. The problem? Strings, baby, strings.
Tenor saxophonist Sanchez collaborates here with the arranger Carlos Franzetti and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on a set of "classical" works by the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera and the Brazilians Villa-Lobos and Antonio Carlos Jobim. The result, as nearly always happens when someone tries to genetically engineer a new strain of jazzical, is at best a confection, at worst Percy Faith redux. Jobim is victimized on the aforementioned first cut; Franzetti renders his "Eu Sei Que Vou te Amar" into something that even my late grandmother, a Johnny Mathis fan, would have found cloying.
Sanchez does OK throughout the album. He's a skillful if faceless improviser. He has a pretty, near-Getzian tone and a sharp, precise manner of phrasing that's not unattractive. And of course you have to admire his ambition in attacking so large a project. The best cuts are Sanchez's own tunes. "The Elements II" and "Cancion del Canaveral" are the hottest and least sugary performances, thanks largely to the greater part played by the saxophonist's sextet. Here, the strings enhance the jazz elements; the opposite is true for too much of the album. It's as if Sanchez and Columbia were going for Sketches of Spain and instead got Bird With Strings.