CD of the month: Antonio Sanchez – New Life

Sanchez’ last release, Live In New York, was a hard-blowing affair featuring a chord-less quartet of tenor and alto saxophones accompanied by Sanchez and bassist Scott Colley, while his debut Migration featured a similar quartet with occasional harmonic support (and more) provided by guests such as Chick Corea and Pat Metheny. On New Life, however, he expands his group to a quintet – adding pianist John Escreet – while demonstrating a sizeable shift in his compositional and orchestrating skills, resulting in his strongest album yet.

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Escreet definitely evokes McCoy Tyner, while Sanchez gives a nod to Elvin on the 7/4 swing of the Coltrane-influenced opener ‘Uprisings And Revolutions’, which reaches a Coltrane-like intensity, particularly during the solos. Matt Brewer’s deceptive bass ostinato sets up ‘Minotauro’, a composition that displays Sanchez’s ear for melody and arrangement, but the 14-minute epic ‘New Life’ is definitely the album’s centrepiece. It has an undeniable Metheny/Mays influence and features the Brazilian-sounding wordless vocals of Thana Alexa. Elsewhere, we have the gentle 6/8 of ‘Nighttime Story’, the mysterious Latin vibe of ‘Medusa’ and the New Orleans groove of ‘The Real McDaddy’ and fantastic soloing from all – including saxophonists David Binney and Donny McCaslin, and some funky Fender Rhodes from Escreet. The result is a varied, extremely accomplished and, most importantly, highly listenable album.

5/5

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