Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Julian Argüelles - Truth Be Told (Basho Music, 2015)

On this album, saxophonist Julian Argüelles collaborates with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band to play arrangements of compositions by South African musicians, many of which are associated with the legendary Blue Notes band, which fled apartheid ravaged South Africa for England in the early 1960’s. “Mra Khali” opens the album with a happy rhythmic sound; as the music takes off into a joyful swing feel with hard riffing horns and rippling piano and percussion. Argüelles solos nicely, with his saxophone sounding bright and beaming as the surrounding horns lift him ever higher. This is followed by “Mama Marimba” which opens with a freer sensibility before coalescing into a coolly funky beat with punchy horns and subtle bass clarinet bubbling underneath. There is a medium tempoed trumpet solo with a mellow feel which then makes way for horns to build in their riff patterns and launches a majestic saxophone solo into the air to end the performance. The bouncing township feel continues on “Diamond Express,” which has a jaunty danceable feel with jagged horns and powerful trumpet and a very cool rhythm. Another bright and shiny saxophone solo moves the music forward and keeps everything on an even keel. “Amasi” has thick, strong percussion with deep saxophone playing developing a raw feel before the rest of the blustery horns muscle their way in and develop a kaleidoscopic swirl around which the music can revolve. Riffing horns and boiling percussion ratchet the tension even higher making for a very fast and fun section where short bursts of percussion and horns play off against one another. Finally, “Come Again” has monstrous percussion and horn interplay making for a very infectious performance, and Argüelles is able to stretch out for a very impressive saxophone solo before making way for some snarling guitar and then a full band blast off to end things with a rousing conclusion. This was a very interesting album, as the compositions and the arrangements lend themselves to some very accessible playing. The music was exciting, emotional and very well done. This is the kind of album you can give to someone who says they can’t get into jazz because it is too staid and serious, because this is anything but. Let It Be Told -

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