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Angelica Sanchez Trio/Michael Formanek & Billy Hart: Sparkle Beings (Sunnyside)

A review of the pianist-led group's album with the bassist and drummer

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Angelica Sanchez Trio/Michael Formanek & Billy Hart: Sparkle Beings (Sunnyside)
The cover of Sparkle Beings by the Angelica Sanchez Trio/Michael Formanek & Billy Hart

With Hart, Formanek, and Sanchez representing three generations of avant-garde playing, I’m tempted to call this date historical—especially since it got cut at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, with Maureen Sickler engineering. Sanchez sat at the same piano many of her idols had pressed upon.

To render the bigger picture, though, the avant garde, to remain truly avant-garde, can acknowledge the past but must push through the present to the future. Here the seven-tune set succeeds in spades. Even if you’ve heard these tunes before—say, “Preludio a un Preludio,” from Mario Ruiz Armengol—you haven’t heard Formanek’s meditative prelude before the other two come in, Sanchez laying down chords that fragment into short runs, Hart balancing dry brushes on his snare with gonglike raps on a cymbal.

Cecil Taylor’s “With (Exit)” seems formless on top, but fecund with made meanings in its depths. The title track, one of three Sanchez originals, kicks off with Hart showing how he can turn toms and his metal bits into a ruminative language, then underscoring what Sanchez has to say with a scattered-shower theme, plus variations.

The big finish, furnished by a medley of Sanchez’s “Before Sleep” with Duke Ellington’s “The Sleeping Lady and the Giant That Watches Over Her,” doesn’t pull out all the stops—not that kind of set—but blooms, serenely, a sunflower’s delight at the dawn. Formanek speculates, Hart pushes a pulse seemingly without a meter, Sanchez mixes and matches her short phrases in a more sprightly manner than elsewhere. One of the richest and most promising albums so far this year.


Learn more about Sparkle Beings on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Before & After with Michael Formanek

Billy Hart Is Still Solid as a Rock