Saturday, July 17, 2010
It might seem odd that Luis Muñoz, a Costa RIcan pianist, percussionist and composer would title an album with such vibrant presence "Invisible"; this is music that practically begs to be noticed, not hidden away. But perhaps he chose it because, although he is undeniably the leader, Muñoz is as interested in delegating as he is in starring. Bassist Tom Etchart often takes the melodic reins in addition to providing an anchor, particularly when employing his fretless instrument.
The opening track, "ADam's Dream", unfolds slowly, then spreads out, Etchart paving the way until trumpeter Jonathan Dane and second pianist George Friedenthal arrive to have their say. On "Malabarista", Etchart's bass again performs a vital leadership role, volleying with marimba, a pair of trumpeters, tenor saxophone and more. "Luz del Sur" is a feast of seemingly incongruous elements ranging from pedal steel guitar to trumpet, to marimba, and the closing "Tango y Sangre de la Media Noche" is mark with tension and release as Laura Heckstein's violin, Dane's trumpet George Quirin's acoustic guitar., Etchart's acoustic bass and Muñoz-on piano, alto flute and pad-take turns for nearly 10 minutes exploring the main theme.
For "Hymn", a soulful gospel tune featuring the amped-up vocal of Lois Mahalia, Muñoz lays back on piano while allowing Hammond organist Jimmy Calire to lead the way, and on "Sobrevivencia", it's David Binney's alto saxophone that provides the bulk of the fireworks. "Esperanza" in fact, finds Muñoz altogether absent, handing over the track completely to classical guitarist Chris Judge and Etchart. Despite this seeming invisibility, however, Muñoz is rarely idle, filling gaps, fleshing out parts, creating percussive atmospheres and stepping up front with well-measured piano solos on several tracks.
With "Invisible", Muñoz has created a work of radiance and nuance, alternately fiery and placid, diverse yet wonderfully cohesive!
Jeff Tamarkin/JazzTimes Magazine