Venezuelan label Cacao Música is truly doing what no one else in the music industry seems to be doing these days, as they continue to advocate for creative and genre-defying Latin artists still intent on producing new and remarkable work. Guitarist Aquiles Báez, whose talents have graced the projects of everyone from Paquito D’Rivera to Fareed Haque, launches a culturally rich offering in La Patilla, combining the wealth of his native Venezuelan music with jazz and world textures. The South American country has certainly produced its share of virtuosi, and Báez’s extraordinary skill on the Venezuelan cuatro, combined with his gift for contemporary harmony and arrangements, show us the many facets of his musical personality. Alongside the participation of many of his panas (musical brothers), Báez likens his journey to the work of a painter exploring the nuances of color and light and brings his sense of mystical wonder to this recording.
With the exquisite clarinet playing of Anat Cohen, pieces such as “A San Benito,” “Choro” and the closing waltz “O Algo Así” drip with melodic richness and evoke a musical sensitivity seldom heard today. Flamenco jazz textures abound in “Como La Guayabera,” a jazzy bulerías featuring the lyrical Pablo Gil on soprano sax and the rapid-fire cajón playing of Diego Álvarez and Adolfo Herrera. Odd meter is a joy again in “For Colin,” a fun Venezuelan meringue (in 5/8 time) that opens up to Báez and Gil’s tasty soloing (although the guitar solo is overpowered by the cuatro in the mix), followed by the haunting “Donde el Cielo se Encuentra” that truly showcases the leader’s probing melodic writing. Rounding out the session are bassist Roberto Koch, drummer Adolfo Herrera, percussionists Alexander Livinalli, Gerardo Rosales and Wilmer Montilla, and flutist Huáscar Barradas, who sparkles on the joropo “Buscando Caimán en Boca ‘e Caño.” La Patilla is many things: eclectic, nostalgic, culturally diverse and nuanced, yet its unifying factor is the creative genius of Aquiles Báez.