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Carlos SÁNCHEZ GIL (b. 1977)
Tangata ‘Ciudadela’ [6:34]
La granja [5:47]
Duo No. 1, ‘aires de tango…’ [2:29]
Duo No. 2 ‘en la iglesia del pastor…’ [3:40]
Duo No. 3 ‘aires de candombe…’ [3:54]
Trio No. 2 ‘Amanalco de Becerra’ [5:12]
Trio No. 1 [9:46]
Suite: Neptuniana [15:16]
Guitar Sonata No. 2 ‘A Silvestre Revueltas’ [11:12]
Carlos Sànchez Gil (guitar and melodica), Héctor Ríos (clarinet), Jeremy Thal (horn), Christopher Martianetti (accordion), Matias Gariazzo (guitar)
Dúo Sánchez-Pochulutegui
Trío Estepario
rec 2013/14, DPM Studio, Montevideo, Uruguay
EMEC E-123 [63:50]

The Spanish label EMEC has been around for three decades or so and by now has built up something of a niche catalogue which focuses predominantly if not exclusively on Latin music, Amongst the contemporary fare on offer is this portrait disc dedicated to the work of the talented guitarist - composer Carlos Sánchez Gil. I have spent some time on the web attempting to confirm his nationality – from the sparse amount of information available one can be pretty certain he is Uruguayan (which tallies with the fact that the disc was recorded in Montevideo), although I am happy to be corrected should any readers know differntly.

The disc’s title derives from the name of the suite for guitar and clarinet Tangata ‘Ciudadela’ with which the disc begins (Ciudadela is the oldest-established part of Montevideo); the composer states that the work incorporates something of the essence of Astor Piazzola, but whilst the Argentinian master’s influence is fully absorbed it is most subtly conveyed. The suite is a gem of concision and refinement, not entirely insulated from the atmosphere of the café whilst one can easily imagine encountering it in the recital hall. Its four tiny movements are lithe and colourful. Clarinetist Héctor Rios has a ball with his fizzing, evocative part and proves to be a gymnastic and responsive partner for Sánchez Gil’s agile playing.

La granja (The Farm – in this context it actually refers to a Mexican jazz venue) is a lethargic and easy-going trio for an unlikely combination of horn, accordion and guitar.The timbral blend that emerges is so natural it makes one wonder why one hasn’t encountered it before. La granja certainly takes the odd teasingly dark harmonic turn but in the final analysis it inhabits a dustbowl jazz groove which will only cheer a melancholy soul.

At this point in the disc, Sánchez Gil’s music begins to adopt a more serious, abstract quality that is more overtly anchored in what readers might characterise as ‘art music’. The three Duos for two guitars were written for the Dúo Sánchez-Pochulutegui which consists of the composer himself and his Argentinian sidekick Carlos Pochulutegui. The Duo No 1 combines faint tango nuevo flavours and minimalism and ultimately resembles neither. No 2 is daringly chromatic and throws down a more serious technical challenge to the players. It is tagged to an evocative subtitle En la iglesia del pastor… (in the shepherd’s church) and begins in a rather solemn manner although in due course unexpected interruptions lead to an increase in pace. This releases an angular drive which somehow avoids stridency. The ultimate effect is one of emotional aloofness. The Duo No 3, subtitled Aires de candombe…. does hint more obviously at minimalism during its opening bars, but the piece truly comes to life when the instruments mimic the weird colorations of Uruguayan Candombe percussion. These skilfully contoured and attractively crafted miniatures are light as air but seem miles away from the world of easy listening. They are superbly played and cleanly recorded.

Next up are a couple of more ambitious Trios for two contrasting combos. Sánchez Gil’s Trio No 2 involves a piquant, occasionally plangent cocktail of guitar, clarinet and melodica. This is frequently more astringent in its tone and mood than one might suspect. The composer admits to the influence of Silvestre Revueltas in this piece and the Mexican’s fingerprints are most detectable in the colours and skittering cross-rhythms of its second section, although the first half of the work points to something even more advanced. This more contemporary side of Sánchez Gil’s language is yet more pronounced in his Trio No 1, which is just shy of 10 minutes long and in consequence easily the most extended single movement on this disc. This trio retains the guitar and adds double-bass and marimba. Most of the Trio No 1 is unashamedly experimental, combining wisps of guitar-led, Latinate melody and texture with uncompromising blocks of raw timbre which Sánchez Gil’s has mined from the coloristic potential of this singular combination. It’s a million miles from the first couple of pieces on this disc – more than once I imagined a South American Lutoslawski. A rather morose theme mysteriously appears in its closing bars. It’s difficult to imagine a more technically expert performance of this tricky, occasionally unsettling music than this account by Trío Estepario.

Given that the available repertoire for guitar, double-bass and marimba must be pretty slim, it’s most considerate of Carlos Sánchez Gil to have composed the four movement suite Neptuniana for the same instrumental configuration. Its lively opening panel Crónicas sandwiches a strange, diffuse solo for the marimba between two jazzy, vivacious guitar-led sections. The strummed bass is the arbiter of pulse throughout, save for two brief arco lines. The atmospheric Cecilí follows, a sun-kissed bossa-nova featuring delicious interplay between guitar and marimba. Fernando Sánchez ’s growling, hoarse double-bass comes more to the fore in the otherworldly Momento third movement, whilst the intricate Invernal which concludes the suite is cleverly layered with mosaic-like motifs and patterns along the lines of a Nik Bärtsch Modul; it is apt that the recording duly projects ECM-standard clarity.

To round off this invigorating and occasionally provocative monograph, Carlos Sanchez Gil performs his Guitar Sonata No. 2, A Silvestre Revueltas. In a rather cursory note, the composer alludes to Revueltas’ punchy little octet Ocho por Radio which provides some of the thematic content for the outer movements. The opening Allegro is enigmatic and stop-start; Brazilian flavours are frequently infused into a virtuosic arc which takes a rather scenic route. The central Lento is an even more inscrutable confection in the form of a theme and variations. It is full of ingenious coloristic innovations. The Danza finale is a wild ride of impressive tactility based on the mariachi tune upon which Ocho por Radio was based. This intriguing sonata certainly suggests Sanchez Gil is a composer with impressive means and range, whilst his performance confirms his stature as an exceptional guitarist.

The Otto Dix painting on the cover provides the clue that this unusual disc is not all about sunny, rather superficial Latin stylings; Sanchez Gil embraces various degrees of fragmentation and experiment in his compositions. The easy approachability of the first two tracks is present but far less obvious elsewhere. The superb musicianship and expert sound on show at every turn renders the issue an attractive proposition for any readers curious about the trends currently emerging from the most obscure corners of the Latin-American art music firmament.

Richard Hanlon

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