Chile, the country of sensuous poetry and visceral prose, is not well known for its jazz. Over the past two decades, however, the nation has been home to a growing improvised music scene. Three musicians who honed their skills in this relatively new environment have come together as Simetrio, releasing an eponymous CD of intellectually intense yet emotionally charged music.
Pianist Lautaro Quevedo is the nominal leader of this collaborative group and the composer of seven out of the album's twelve tracks. Known as "the sideman of Chile," Quevedo came into his own in the electrical fringes of the music, starting his career in fusion and acid jazz groups while simultaneously polishing his densely flowing acoustic sound. Quevedo's extreme chromatic harmonies are heard on the nocturnesque "El Faro," where the piano's modal improvisation is vaguely reminiscent of Andrew Hill.
Although not overtly in the Latin subgenre, some of the album's themes bear regional hints. The dark, sweet and minor-keyed ballad "Camino" has the lyricism of a tango, especially in Quevedo's opening and closing bars, while "Fé de Hierro" has a distinctly Afro Cuban structure, with Carlos Cortés' percussive drumming and Quevedo's guajeo-like syncopated arpeggio chords.
Cortés, who has played in a variety of jazz-oriented bands, shows off his versatility on "Azul," where his polyphonic and primal solo contrasts well with Quevedo's gently euphonious pianism. On bassist Marcelo Córdova's "Jazziete," he provides rock-solid support to his cohorts, deftly navigating the tune's intricacies while Córdova weaves mellifluous lines around the main melody.
Córdova, who also contributes four other quite elaborate pieces to the record, comes from a western classical background. This influence is apparent on the bassist's "Toulouse," with its overtly romantic explorations and dusky hues. Córdova and Quevedo engage in a modern deconstruction of the traditional dance on the bassist's "Lost Waltz," while Cortés' eggs them on with his almost martial drumming. Córdova's cello-like arco extemporization, together with Quevedo's angular notes, gives "Impresión" a distinct Debussy-esque flair
Simetrio's native land may not be famous yet for its jazz but the release of Simetrio should significantly contribute to putting Chile back on the proverbial map.
Track Listing: Camino; Encuentro; El ataque; Lost Waltz; Jazziete; Pasaje en el tiempo; Azul; Toulouse;
Converso; Fe de hierro; El Faro; Impresión.