Albums by bassist Joan Torres (Before, self-produced, 2012)) and guitarist Gabriel Vicéns (Point in Time, self-produced, 2012) give every indication of a burgeoning jazz renaissance in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Marked by technical proficiency, these players have matter-of-factly eschewed New York and set about to build a scene in San Juan.
Among the most satisfying aspects of the Torres and Vicéns records is the alto saxophone of Jonathan Suazo, who lent his fluid, swinging chops to both dates. It is therefore particularly gratifying that Suazo has released his début record.
Extracts of a Desire opens with a staggering one-two punch. "Pace of Life" is grand and vaguely Eastern and spiritual, in the manner of great performances by saxophonist Yusef Lateef or pianist McCoy Tyner, with a surging solo by Suazo. "Forgive Me," meanwhile, begins in a suitably melancholy mood, only to erupt in a powerful middle section. The writing evinces a soulful depth like that of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Suazo again builds to a climax with genuine excitement and emotion; in the slower passages that frame the piece, he employs a breathy style more commonly associated with some tenor players. "Un futuro inevitable," is (inevitably?) slightly less necessary after the thrilling tracks that precede it.
The remainder of the record is dominated by two ambitious and extended performances. The three-part suite "La ira de una flor" affords soloing opportunities for pianist Bienvenido Dinzey (in the "Nacer" movement) and guitarist Vicéns ("Furia"). The fifteen-minute "Lucharemos," meanwhile, boasts another spiritually evocative melody and harmony. Vicéns is at his best here, exhibiting his characteristically airy, architectural approach, high in the clouds above the number's earthy groove.
The records by Vicéns and Torres that preceded Extracts of a Desire demonstrate that a straight-ahead jazz musician could play in San Juan without wearing Puerto Rican-ness on their sleeves. Suazo's record, however, more explicitly introduces Latin jazz elements into some tracks; most notably with extra percussion during a couple of the tracks, and Brazilian-style vocals on the joyous (of course) closer, "The Joy of You." But Suazo's disc should be resolutely filed under "jazz" without adjectivesunless those adjectives are "soulful," "versatile" and "well-executed." Add "promising": for Suazo's career and for the vitality of the Puerto Rican scene.
Track Listing: Pace of Life; Forgive Me; Un futuro inevitable; What Is This Thing Called Love?; La ira de una
flor (Nacer, Furia, Reposo y regreso); Lucharemos juntos; The Joy Of You.
Personnel: Jonathan Suazo: alto saxophone; Bienvenido Dinzey: piano; Gabriel Vicéns: guitar;
Alex Gasser: bass; Leonardo Osuna: drums; Paoli Mejías: percussion, djembe drum,
batá drums (4); Amarilys Ríos: barril de bomba (5); Jhan Lee Aponteporo:
congas, barril de bomba, timbal, surdos (5, 7); Tanicha López: vocals (7).