07/13/13

Concert Review: Antonio Sanchez Migration at Montreal Jazz Festival

Drummer and his quartet make each tune count

Antonio Sanchez was thrilled to finally lead his own band into the Montreal International Jazz Festival. “We are very lucky to have a crowd like you,” the 41-year-old Mexico City native commented on July 6 at the festival’s intimate Gesu Center. “And you are lucky to have a band like us.”

And how. Although the drummer was being funny, he was also speaking the truth. His Migration is one tremendous outfit—featuring saxophonist Dave Binney, pianist John Escreet and bassist Matt Brewer—and that point was certainly driven home during this entirely enjoyable show.

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Antonio Sanchez

Opening with the tornado-like twister “Uprisings and Revolutions,” which also happens to be the lead track from Sanchez’s latest release, New Life—the quartet made each tune count. The mighty foursome was in the mood to jam, stretching five songs out over the roughly 100-minute main set.

There was plenty of time for each band member to shine, and each did so brightly. The drummer/bandleader was a thundering presence on the opening cut, which definitely lived up to its revolutionary billing, but he also showed a soft touch when necessary, such as on the new album’s “Nighttime Story.” He called out his fiancé to perform on the title cut to New Life, but his introduction proved to be the one mishap of the night. “Please put your hands together for Mister … Mister?” Sanchez said with a laugh, then adding for effect: “Just one detail—she’s a man.”

Well, you sure could’ve fooled us. You can say a lot of things about Thana Alexa, but that she looks like a man certainly isn’t one of them. She showed her good sense of humor, however, by referring to herself onstage as a “Mister” before adding dreamy vocals to “New Life.”

All five of the songs in the main set hailed from Sanchez’s new album, and they collectively showed that he’s every bit as good at leading the show as he is at playing the sideman role. (Sanchez is best known for his work with guitarist Pat Metheny and has also worked with the likes of Chick Corea and Gary Burton.)

They finished up the main set with another titantic run, this time through “The Real McDaddy.” It was a nice showcase for the talented Binney, who is also an accomplished solo artist and bandleader in his own right. He put his alto sax through breakneck turns, letting the notes fly like popcorn in a popper.

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