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Daniel Garcia Trio

Travesuras

ACT 9880-2

1. Potro de rabia y miel [7:49]

2. Oniria [4:28]

3. Dream of Mompou #1 [2:45]

4. Travesuras [6:35]

5. Dream of Mompou #2 [2:19]

6. Alegrias pa Averío [4:56]

7. La Comunidad [6:09]

8. Dream of Mompou #3 [2:17]

9. Dream of Miles [6:19]

10.Vengo de moler [7:29]

11.Dream of Mompou #4 [2:04]

Daniel Garcia (piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer)

Reinier Elizarde ‘El Negron) (acoustic bass)

Michael Olivera (drums).

Jorge Padro (flute) on tracks 4 & 10.

Rec. Estudio Uno, Madrid, October 15-17, 2018.

For some decades now Spanish musicians such as pianist Chano Dominguez and flautist and saxophonist Jorge Pardo – to name but two – have been creating music informed by the musical languages of both flamenco and jazz. But I have come across relatively few recordings on which musicians from Spain create music which is equally indebted to jazz and to Spanish ‘classical’ composers; I have heard none which do so as well as Daniel Garcia does on this CD. Garcia’s credentials with regard to both classical music and jazz are impeccable (you don’t, after all, get to record for ACT unless you have real jazz ability). Garcia studied classical piano at the Music Conservatory of Castile-y-Leon in Salamanca (the city of his birth in 1983), before going to the USA to study jazz at Berklee College in Boston, where his principal teacher was an outstanding jazz pianist – Danilo Pérez from Panama.

But, naturally, Garcia’s background includes flamenco too. In the brief and anonymous sleeve note accompanying Travesuras he is quoted as saying: “Flamenco and jazz are brothers. They have some essential things in common: self-expression, a total engagement at the instant of making music plus the deep experience of the moment”. It is into the flamenco tradition that this album first plunges the listener with an exciting version of ‘Potro de rabia y miel’, a song composed by two of modern flamenco’s legendary figures – guitarist Paco de Lucia and singer Camarón De La Isla. (Apart from this first track and the traditional song ‘Vengo de moler’ (I come from grinding) all the compositions on the album are by Garcia). Listening to ‘Potro de rabia y miel’ I was struck by how skilfully Garcia is able to ‘translate’ the language of flamenco to the piano as well as by the deeply impressive cohesion between the members of the trio.

The word ‘travesuras’ means mischief, pranks and so far as I understand it perhaps relates particularly to the mischief and playfulness of children. Certainly playfulness is a recurrent motif on this album, which isn’t to suggest that the music-making here is anything other than perfectly serious. Johann Huizinga argued in his seminal book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (1938) that culture is developed and maintained through play, observing, indeed, that “culture arises in the form of play”. He suggested that this is especially true of musical culture “where a strong play-element may be called fundamental, indeed, essential”. Another recurrent motif in the music on this disc is dreams and dreaming, as in ‘Oniria’; the title is hard to translate simply; it is, like the English word ‘Oneiric’ (meaning, according to the OED, ‘dreamlike; characteristic of, or relating to dreams’), derived from the ancient Greek word ‘Oneiros’ (dream) an idea continued in the five tracks ‘Dream of Mompou #1-4’, and ‘Dream of Miles’. In ‘Oniria’ the dreamlike quality is in part created by the incorporation of an old cassette recording of the pianist, then aged 3, in conversation with his mother. One of the common characteristics of dreams – the refusal to obey the ’laws’ of time – is thus enacted musically (and, indeed, the child’s instinct to play is fused with dreaming). The four versions of the ‘Dream of Mompou’ and ‘Dream of Miles’ are ‘playful’ in a different, but related, sense, insofar as each is a response to an already-existing piece of music by another artist. The ‘Mompou’ pieces are inspired by no. 6 in Federico Mompou’s Música Callada, found in the ‘Premier cuaderno’ (1959). ‘Dream of Miles’ is a response to ‘Solea’, a tune by Gil Evans on Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain (released in 1960). It is worth noting that Sketches also contains ‘jazz’ versions of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and a piece (‘Will o’ the Wisp’) derived from Falla’s El amor brujo. Interestingly, however the piece to which Garcia has chosen to create a response is ‘Solea’ – a piece whose very title refers to one of the basic forms of flamenco. So a Spaniard (Garcia) creates a response to the response by two American musicians (Gil Evans and Miles Davis) to a traditional Spanish form. There is complex and interesting ‘play’ of minds and musical traditions at work here, and so as to appreciate fully ‘Dream of Miles’, I suggest that listeners go back, by way of preparation, to the Evans/Davis recording of ‘Solea’ and perhaps even listen also to a true ‘Soléa’ such as the one of that title, written by Ramon Montoya and played by Paco Peña on his double album Flamenco Guitar (Nimbus N17070). Listening to ‘Dream of Miles’ one has the sense of elements from several musical languages fusing and separating, transforming in a dreamlike manner. ‘Dream of Mompou’ in its four versions is less complicated (though, again, it is a good idea to (re)familarise oneself with Música Callada No. 6 before listening to Garcia’s improvisations around and upon it. Taken as a set, rather than just individually, these four ‘Dreams’ of Mompou are a kind of ethereal spine to the album, supporting (as it were) the often up-tempo music around it. The Mompou ‘dreams’ embody a childhood innocence rather than ‘mischief’. What adults misinterpret as mischief is very often childlike play, the behaviour of a child who doesn’t yet make real moral distinctions. Perhaps it is in the recognition of some such feeling that in places, such as in the opening of ‘Dream of Mompou #3’, Garcia invests Mompou’s music with a greater robustness, without ever being false to its spirit. When he chooses to, Garcia can caress the keyboard and still be very expressive.

‘Alegrías pa Averio’ takes us back to flamenco, the Alegrías being another form of flamenco, most often performed as a solo dance by a woman. On YouTube there is video of a superb interpretation by Eva La Yerbabuena ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kJOM4q1pUM ).I don’t know who or what ‘Averío’ is or was, for whom (?) (‘pa’ being a contraction of ‘para’) Garcia’s piece was written. Traditionally an Alegrías has several changes of tempo and a number of ‘dramatic’ silences. The same holds true of Gracia’s ‘Alegrías’ also. This is one of the tracks on which bassist and drummer make striking contributions; indeed it opens with some work by Miguel Olivera which wouldn’t sound out of place as the opening of a flamenco dance.

‘La Comunidad’, unless I am missing something, is a relatively straightforward piece of swinging jazz – and none the worse for that. The aforementioned Jorge Pardo (here playing flute) joins the trio on ‘Travesuras’ and ‘Vengo de moler’. This last shows few signs of its traditional / folk origins, being comprehensively remade as a jazz vehicle which has much that is celebratory about it, Pardo fitting in perfectly with the core trio.

Travesuras , with its playful (and simultaneously serious) blending and juxtaposing of musical idioms is at times introspective and at times joyously exuberant. This rich and fascinating album leaves no doubt as to the considerable musicianship of Garcia, ‘El Negron’ and Olivera. Jorge Pardo established his reputation some years ago; these three younger musicians will surely become big names too.

Glyn Pursglove


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