Saul Cosme Quintet - Live in New York

Label: Self produced, 2019

Personnel - Saul Cosme: guitar; Dongguk Pak: tenor saxophone; Haeun Joo: piano; Mikey Migliore: bass; Jason Wastor: drums.

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Mexican-born Saul Cosme is an up-and-coming jazz guitarist and composer based in New York since 2014. Leading his quintet and getting adequate support from his peers, the guitarist makes his debut as a leader with Live in New York, a musical reflex of what is living in two busy cities such as New York and Mexico City. The program incorporates four clever originals and two classic standards, showing that he’s able to move fluidly across genres.

The opener, “La Martiniana”, is a traditional song from Oaxaca that, here, exudes a special eclectic vibe that refers to Charles Lloyd and Gato Barbieri, cross-pollinating folk and post-bop to achieve an elegant aesthetic. In addition to the melodic gift of the theme, harmonic acuteness, and a vibrant pulse in five (3+2), we are offered strong emotions during the competent improvisations from saxophonist Dongguk Pak and Cosme. Any resemblance between the bandleader and the late John Abercrombie might not be much of a surprise, since the latter was his former teacher in the Big Apple.

Another genuinely riveting moment comes from “Cancion Para Sanar”, a crossover piece with a stirring Latin feel and active groove, responsibilities of drummer Jason Wastor and bassist Mikey Migliore, respectively. The combustible energy of this tune contrasts with the reflective tones of “Pensamientos”, a seductively propelled waltz peppered with soft touches of romanticism. However, I found the improvisations way too long here, with pianist Haeun Joo concluding the piece by delivering an unaccompanied ad-lib coda.

Despite suitable to be included in the lineup, the standard “How Deep Is The Ocean” is a misfire. The familiarity of the swinging current underpinning the chord changes and the nature of the improvisations itself don’t really makes it something new or something I would want to revisit. Things improve considerably with Cosme’s “Para Haeun”, a lengthened piece whose theme boasts a soulful air with a Latin undercurrent. Nevertheless, it is with “The Cat Walk”, an exciting hard-bop tune penned by trumpeter Donald Byrd, that the quintet returns to full form. The alternation between accented comping and swinging verve enhance the soloists’ bluesy expressiveness and catchy rhythmic ideas.

Not everything is perfect here, but there’s passion and the desire of looking forward. Live in New York marks an important step in Cosme’s evolutionary path and musical exposition. His unquestionable qualities both as performer and composer should attract straight-ahead audiences.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - La Martiniana ► 02 - Cancion Para Sanar ► 06 - The Cat Walk