David Sanchez at the Village Vanguard — March 17, 2009

Jazz marches on, the Vanguard stays the same

In a room steeped in jazz tradition, David Sanchez's music is both fresh and completely grounded in jazz's past.

His rich, muscular tenor sound, trailing clouds of Coltrane with the edges a bit rounded , is freighted with the passion which has characterized jazz luminaries since Satchmo lit up Basin Street. And it sounded right at home at the Village Vanguard which basically looks and, thankfully, sounds the same as it did about 50 years ago.

Sanchez and his group including Lund Lage (guitar); Henry Cole (drums) and Orlando LeFleming (bass) plunged into the first set of their gig with gusto and a loose precision that made the complex charts seem fluid and spontaneous although serious "cooking" arrived after several tunes worth of warm up.

The lack of piano lent a transparency to the sound which worked to highlight the dynamic and contrasting relationship between Lund's clear, cerebral guitar and Sanchez's impassioned tenor (although Danilo Perez's piano on Sanchez"s excellent "Cultural Survival" certainly brought yet another rich dimension to the table). Whether sharing leads, lending support or trading and interlacing licks, the sounds complemented each other.

Henry Cole's drumming kept the pot boiling with cross-cultural vigor and a light, rustling touch which turned intense and whip-like when needed. Rhythms flowed into one another so that it was never clear whether he was playing bop, funk, samba or mambo. Nor did it matter. The fluidity of his playing kept the music from ever seeming flat-footed and highlighted the group's internationalist style.

This sort of cross-cultural, poly-rhythmic, mixed-meter, multi-ethnic rhythmic context gives the music a vibrant openness that extends jazz's horizons by creating a simmering matrix which can change directions and flavors in an instant or blend them in unthought-of ways.

Percussively things have been getting more and more "mysterious" since Kenny Clarke and Max Roach began throwing "bombs" in the bebop days. Elvin Jones and Tony Williams took things to the edge of chaos with their poly-rhythmic complexity, but the metric core was always there. And so it is with Sanchez's music. The sound seems "free", but the structural underpinnings are rock-solid. You may not know where to tap your feet, but rhythm is everywhere in the new matrix.

Jazz is very much at home here too. The nest of rhythms provides a cooking setting for dynamic arrangements and free-flowing solos which Sanchez uses to great advantage. Compositions such as "Ay Bendito" and "Manto Azul" were complex, loose-jointed and fiery while "the forgotten ones" (dedicated to post-Katrina New Orleans) was heart-felt and moving. The musical setting may be a little different, but the jazz essence is alive and well.

One can only imagine the spirits of Trane, Miles, Monk et al hovering around the Vanguard - and smiling.

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