Guillermo Klein - Los Guachos Cristal

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.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Melodia de Arrabal ► 02 - Burrito Volver ► 04 - A Orillas Del Rin

Guillermo Klein - Los Guachos V

Guillermo Klein: piano; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Diego Urcola: trumpet, trombone; Richard Nant: trumpet; Sandro Tomasi: trombone; Taylor Haskins: trumpet; Ben Monder: guitar; Fernando Huergo: electric bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Argentine-born Guillermo Klein is not merely a refined pianist but also a magnificent composer, arranger, and bandleader. In addition to these talents, he only hires musicians of superior quality to be part of his projects.
Los Guachos, an 11-piece ensemble project that has been active since 1999, has its fifth album released on the Sunnyside Records. 
Los Guachos V” interweaves postmodern jazz and modern classical, but Klein also throws in elements of Argentinean folklore to pepper his well-seasoned dishes.
The album, relying on the concepts of symmetries, patterns, and variations, is composed of two suites and two loose ballads that completely fit in the process.
Klein initiates this journey with the sophisticated three-piece suite entitled Indiana, which includes a hopping and uncompromising interpretation of Miles Davis’ “Donna Lee”, in an arrangement populated with profuse rhythmic counterpoints and featuring Chris Cheek on the baritone sax.
The following 7 tunes are portions of the rich Suite Jazmin whose symmetric ends are precisely entitled “Symmetry I” and “Symmetry II”. In the middle, we are pushed into memorable places with “Si No Sabes”, in its variations of 4/4 and in 9/8, and two 'mirrors' of Klein’s previous compositions: the hypnotically languid “Burrito Hill”, first recorded for the album “Carrera”, and the stylized “Human Feel”, a piece retrieved from “Bienestan”, an album co-led by Klein and Aaron Goldberg. Only Ben Monder and Diego Urcola had green light to improvise. All the rest is pure teamwork.
The album closes with two resplendent ballads - Andrew Hill’s little-known “Ashes” is a 19-bar form that saw the daylight in Greg Osby’s “Invisible Hands”, while Klein’s “Quemando Velas” is a touching piece layered with harmonious sounds.
Los Guachos V” is a magical record that unveils the art of reinventing jazz today with insight and finesse. Guillermo Klein, an erudite visionary, is the man to follow.

Favorite Tracks: 
02 – Donna Lee ► 05 – Si No Sabes 4/4 ► 07 – Burrito Hill Mirror