When Marta Sánchez’s mom died unexpectedly in late 2020, the pianist was at a loss. However Sánchez knew, nearly instinctively, the place she may course of her grief: on the piano, pen and paper in hand, sounding out new music for her quintet.
Within the decade since she moved to New York from Madrid, the quintet has been Sánchez’s essential artistic outlet. And because the launch of its strong 2015 debut, “Partenika,” it has made itself often known as one of the crucial persistently satisfying bands in modern jazz — largely because of the well-ordered complexity and openhearted power of Sánchez’s tunes, which blur the divide between lead melody and accompaniment, regular pulse and unruly drift.
The group’s personnel rotates usually, however the format has by no means shifted: a pair of saxophones out entrance, usually in excessive distinction with each other; a bassist; a drummer; and the tension-raising strategy of Sánchez’s piano.
As a composer, she culls a whole lot of her inspiration from life expertise, and regardless of how technical her music will get, it retains an unpretentious, poignant attraction. (On “Partenika” the deftly sculpted tunes usually had prosaic names, like “Patella Dislocation” — sure, inspired by a knee injury Sánchez suffered — or just “Yayyyy.”) So it’s no shock that the quintet’s fourth album, “SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum),” is each musically complicated and emotionally direct, managing to convey the uncooked, implacable ache of loss.
The quintet’s lineup has nearly utterly modified since its newest launch, “El Rayo De Luz,” from 2019. The saxophonist Román Filiú — a Sánchez collaborator since earlier than she moved to New York — is the one remaining authentic member, and even he has moved from alto to tenor, making method for the rising alto saxophonist Alex LoRe. The rhythm part is now stuffed out by two of essentially the most in-demand gamers on the New York scene: the bassist Rashaan Carter and the drummer Allan Mednard.
Quintets are an ordinary format in jazz; having two saxophones up entrance, much less so. Sánchez’s group has some issues in frequent with Quintessence, a two-sax quintet that the pianist and composer Michele Rosewoman has led, on and off, because the Eighties: an off-kilter, usually funky pulse; interwoven saxophone melodies; a dynamic position for the piano, which may both add melodic counterpoint to the saxophones or throw clots of concord into the combination. However Sánchez — who studied classical piano and composition at a conservatory in Spain — appears finally extra within the chamber-jazz lineage of Lennie Tristano, whose combo in the 1960s featured the saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh out entrance.
And there’s no getting across the residing legacies of Carla Bley and Guillermo Klein, two pianist-composers who draw people traditions along with jazz and pop formations, and whose influences loom over Sánchez’s writing. Klein, an Argentine-born massive band chief well-known for his interleaved, cyclical melodies, was a instructor and mentor to Sánchez within the 2000s, when he was residing in Barcelona; she would journey from Madrid for classes.
Polyphonic group improvising was central to early New Orleans jazz, and the enjoyment of listening to horn gamers commerce and haggle over melodies has always been a part of the custom. In Sánchez’s group, it’s extra usually a component of the composition than of the improvisation — however the two aren’t all the time cleanly divided: A saxophone solo might give strategy to a finely stitched three-part melody, then open onto a rugged piano solo.
Sánchez was already trending towards a darker, extra occluded method to concord and melody (they’re usually one and the identical for her) earlier than her mom handed away. And there’s proof of that curiosity throughout “SAAM,” not simply on the tunes impressed by loss. It’s there on “December eleventh,” named for the day she died, and on “The Everlasting Stillness,” on which a drained yawn of lissome, high-pitched saxophone concord results in a restive, sparring trade. But it surely’s additionally on “Expensive Worthiness,” a plangent meditation on the numerous sources of self-doubt nowadays, and on “When Dreaming Is the Solely,” the album’s fervid, charging remaining monitor, on which Sánchez ranges from low rumbles to excessive, tolling notes to screwy traces and chunky chords, feeding gasoline into LoRe and Filiú’s tense saxophone interaction.
As a listener, chances are you’ll find yourself feeling each energized and overloaded by this music, caught between the will to maintain singing the crisp melodies swimming round your ears and the popularity that you just actually can’t do it alone.
The exception is “Marivi,” the album’s centerpiece and the one monitor to not embody the saxophonists. As an alternative it options the guitarist and vocalist Camila Meza, a longtime Sánchez collaborator, singing Sánchez’s plaintive melody and lyrics; the trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire portray in gentle strokes behind her; and the synths artist Charlotte Greve including faint textures.
The phrases, in Spanish, are a bereaved soliloquy: One verse interprets to “I had imagined that we might have many days/the place you’ll inform me/the secrets and techniques of your previous.” After Akinmusire takes a solo, Meza returns to the primary theme, and he joins her in easy unison. This time, writing from inside a need that may by no means be fulfilled, Sánchez has crafted a melody of nice simplicity and sweetness. When the album ends, it’s one factor you actually can take with you.
Marta Sánchez Quintet
“SAAM (Spanish American Artwork Museum)”