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Elio Villafranca Quartet : The Source in Between

On The Source in Between pianist Elio Villafranca attempts to fuse venturesome postbop and classic Latin jazz. Its real ambition, however, is rhythmic, which is why, in addition to drummer Dafnis Prieto-part of the core quartet along with saxophonist Eric Alexander and bassist Jeff Carney-the album features two guest percussionists, Ferenc Nemeth and Arturo Stable. As such, even as the other instruments luxuriate in tuneful melody and rich harmony, the percussion consistently sounds busy, even skittish. Therein lies the rub: The Source in Between is a fine set that’s somewhat overwhelmed by its sophisticated rhythms.

“Oddua Suite,” for example, is a droning, Coltranesque modal piece, but the beat shifts between trudging 4/4 and upbeat 5/4. Odd accents offset those meters, an effect that confuses even casual foot-tapping. Worse, the ballad “In the Dark” has no apparent time signature whatsoever, Prieto letting licks fall where they may. Although the playing (especially Villafranca’s chording) is beautiful, the track is shapeless.

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