In his U.S. recording debut as a leader, Edsel Gomez is a man with a theory. His concept of musical Cubism advocates an improvisational approach based on small self-contained melodic phrases or motivic patterns, analogous to the building blocks of Cubist paintings.
Gomez has assembled a high-powered team for this project. Whether or not Don Byron, Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, Steve Wilson and Gregory Tardy are thinking about Gomez' "complete unit patterns" when they solo, it is clear that something special is going on here by way of aesthetic stimulus. All five reed players are especially sharp and focused, and indeed they often sound like they are working from smaller structural elements, creatively and intensively juxtaposed.
Wilson's short, quick alto-saxophone figures cohere into an ambitious design on "To the Lord." Sanchez (on tenor), Wilson (on flute) and Byron (on clarinet) all paint with sharp Cubist angles and vivid colors on "Ladybug." Zenon and Gomez exchange modular ideas that accumulate to a sincere homage on "Juan Tizol."
Gomez' piano work, in its detailed overlays, episodic contrasts and huge dynamic swings, may or may not be Cubist but is definitely distinctive, and he writes intriguing compositions. Cubist Music is an impressive debut, although Gomez is not well served by the veiled, pallid recorded sound.