Roman Filiu - Quarteria

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel – Roman Filiu: alto saxophone; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Dayna Stephens: tenor saxophone; David Virelles: piano; Matt Brewer: bass; Craig Weinrib: drums; Yusnier Sanchez: percussion.


The adventurous forms of expression by Cuban-born, New York-based alto saxophonist Roman Filiu find uppermost expression in Quarteria, a relevant project featuring Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, David Virelles on piano, Matt Brewer on bass, Craig Weinrib on drums, and Yusnier Sanchez on percussion. 

Envisioning an interesting conceptual sensibility, Filiu, an honorable member of Henry Threadgill's groups, penned all the twelve compositions on the record to serve improvisation, often resorting to an out-of-the-ordinary bond between modern jazz, classical, and Cuban music. 

Fulcanelli” is an exuberant horn-driven piece with hooky textures and zig-zag melodies. The improvisation time is distributed to the bandleader, whose conversational, often motivic approach sparks with sophisticated patterns, and Virelles, owner of a distinguished language loaded with exquisite accents and chromatic melodicism. 

Highlighting Weinrib’s efficient drumming, “Grass” also displays the horn section artisans working closely with Virelles. While the pianist installs an unbending tension through the combination of sparse bass motions and recurrent atonal impulses created on the higher register, the drummer perseveres in his neurotic improvisational path.

The theme of “Harina Con Arena” is rhythmically rich in every aspect. The band pulls it off flawlessly with the pronounced Cuban vibe arriving from Sanchez’ percussive flux. Grasping an arty doctrine through his clear-cut lines, Alessi speaks modern dialects, inviting Filiu to follow a similar process. Eloquently, the saxophonist injects his declamatory urgency before Virelles conclude in a sane yet quizzical crescendo.

A trio of inventive Danzas was beautifully outlined, each one capturing its own mood. “Danza #5” is a piano improvisation; “Danza #1” not only interweaves folk melodies with Messiaen’s subtle classical intonations but also puts freewheeling jazz spontaneity side by side with percolating Cuban rhythms; and “Danza #3”, which starts with a bass soliloquy, displays impressionistic improvisations, and carries considerable vertigo in its harmonic progressions. All these three numbers find a positive equilibrium between discipline and freedom.

Countervailing with a more meditative quality, we have “Choral”, “Imperator”, and also “Tursten”, one of the two pieces featuring guest tenorist Maria Grand.

The session gets completed with “Kaijufrem”, a spellbinding piece whose passages change from lustrously poetic to harmonically rockish. The energetic groundwork forged by Brewer and Weinrib serves two purposes: thrust the band forward and provide textural robustness for the improvisers’ assaults.

Filiu transpires all his innate musicality and strong dynamism, establishing sure-footed connections between musical styles with a forward-thinking posture.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Harina Con Arena ► 06 – Danza #1 ► 12 - Kaijufrem