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Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind)

A review of the pianist's fourth quintet recording

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Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum)
The cover of SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) by Marta Sanchez

It’s entirely appropriate that the final song on pianist Marta Sanchez’s fourth quintet recording is titled “When Dreaming Is the Only,” as there’s a dreamlike quality to most of the music here. Not fairy tales, mind you—far from, in fact—but there’s a floating narrative in the way the music glides; it’s reminiscent of the way dreams rarely follow rigid sequences.

Abetting this graceful movement is an ensemble well versed in the pianist’s unique style. Alto saxophonist Alex LoRe and tenorman Roman Filiu bring terse counterpoint in their play, and the rhythm section of bassist Rahsaan Carter and drummer Allan Mednard adds savvy propulsion to Sanchez’s richly textured music. A highlight of SAAM is “Marivi,” a song dedicated to Sanchez’s mother who passed away during the international lockdowns. Vocalist Camila Meza, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and synthesist Charlotte Greve guest, bringing a gentle warmth and subdued grief to the proceedings ahead of Sanchez’s intricate solo. A distinctive solo is also a feature of “If You Could Create It,” and when she returns to her mother’s passing on “December 11th.” But for the most part, Sanchez doesn’t demand the spotlight; her band sounds like a unit of equals.

This quintet has been Sanchez’s principal project since the pianist relocated from her native Madrid to New York City 11 years ago. Rather than assimilate her style into the Gotham jazz panoply, she’s used the time to hone it and make it sound more hers. The title of the recording is a riff on the Smithsonian American Art Museum, but it could just as easily stand for the Sanchez American Art Museum: It’s an expertly curated presentation of an original voice.

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