Label: Sunnyside Records, 2019
Personnel - Guillermo Klein: piano, vocals; Miguel Zenon: alto sax; Bill McHenry: tenor sax; Chris Cheek: soprano, tenor, and baritone saxes; Diego Urcola: trumpet, flugelhorn; Taylor Haskins: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sandro Tomasi: trombone; Ben Monder: guitar; Fernando Huergo: electric bass; Jeff Ballard: drums; Richard Nant: percussion, trumpet.
Argentine pianist Guillermo Klein, a masterful composer and arranger, has now six albums on the Sunnyside imprint with his adventurous unit Los Guachos. Faithful to the eclecticism and sophistication advocated by its bandleader, the 11-piece ensemble maintains a roster of dedicated top-notch musicians that consistently manage to transform complicated orchestrations into something natural and feel-good.
Cristal is a thought-provoking suite-like recording that pays tribute to a couple of celebrated tangoists: Carlos Gardel, composer and performer, and Alfredo Lepera, lyricist. Their music is here subjected to excellent arrangements, and the opening tune, the spellbinding “Melodia de Arrabal” is one of the strongest, together with the one that succeeds it, “Burrito Volver”. On the former piece, the command of tempo and rhythm is absolutely fantastic and the shifts are seamless and tasteful. For its part, the latter is marked by sluggish electric bass moves and an overall alluring indolence that takes possession of our bodies, except when Ben Monder pours out lachrymose phrases from his distorted guitar, using a metal glimmer to inscribe them on the musical surface. The repertoire includes another Gardel/Lepera song: “Volver”, a tango classic that gains new spirit and form through the fusion of breezy jazz and folk elements.
The expeditious “Nos Mirarán Pasar”, which juxtaposes more than one melodic line delivered in unison, is a Klein original based on the tango “El Dia Que Me Quieras” by the aforementioned pair of musicians. It features a grand solo by the Puerto Rican altoist Miguel Zenón, who, during the first moments, has merely Jeff Ballard’s arousing rhythms as a support.
If “Melodia de Arrabal”, “Volver”, “Burrito Volver”, and “Burrito Cristal”, in which Bill McHenry’s tenor soars above the mild undercurrents, had been formerly orchestrated by Klein for Joshua Redman and the Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, then “A Orillas Del Rin”, a 5/4 beauty of a piece with polyrhythmic feel, was originally scored for the HR Big Band and the SJC Sinfonietta. Following Monder’s alternative hues, we find here some cool bends in the enchanting trajectories of the muted trumpet.
“Upstate” and “Flores” are hip tunes peppered with haunting improvisations from saxophonist Chris Cheek on baritone and soprano, respectively, and envisioned with a propulsive energy that stems from the deft, sensitive drive of the rhythm section. While the former piece quotes “Viernes, 3AM” by Argentine rock artist Charly Garcia, bringing Klein’s vocals to the forefront as well as a bright piano pattern in six, the latter, originally recorded in 2005, flows intrepidly at a challenging additive 6+5 meter. And this is why Klein’s music is so mesmerizing. At a certain time, he is up to an appealing mellowness with effortless forward motion, and in the minute after, he’s capable of running a perplexing groove under complex metrics, but where all diverse elements find a right place to be.
Klein creates a fascinating multi-cultural universe that’s his own, and Cristal is another compositionally advanced effort that deserves all our respect, attention, and a great deal of listenings.
01 - Melodia de Arrabal ► 02 - Burrito Volver ► 04 - A Orillas Del Rin