The heart gives a little leap when the first strains of the violin of James Sanders announce the maestro’s deep dive into his Afro-Latin heritage [his mother was Dominican] with this magical repertoire on Evidencia. The detour that the violinist made via classical music at Yale, before plunging into the world of Afro-Latin music paid off handsomely. His playing is informed by exceptionally [hidden] virtuosity – hidden because everything he does is attentive to the music at hand.
Melody, harmony and rhythmic perfection of the music at hand always take precedence over virtuosity. His tone is bright enough to carry any climax. Listen to the flashing brilliance of “Descarga” or the manner in which he tears into “Tiempo de Pensar”, with his navigating down on the lower strings producing a tone that is burnished and dusky, making for a catch in the throat of the unsuspecting listener. Together with [first] arranger and pianist Leandro López Várady [and then] the rest of the Conjunto, who are fully attuned to his artistry and Mr Várady’s as well. Each of the performers articulates the overall musical narrative beautifully.
This is not to say that, as individual interpretations, each soloist is anything other than coherent, lyrical and often extremely lovely. The performances on “Descarga” and “Latin Flow” are typical of these sorts of magnificent executions: svelte harmonies provided by the piano and powerful horns of Steve Eisen, towering rhythms by the percussionists – Luis Rosario and José Rendón, and the drummer Jean-Christophe Leroy; and the thunderous bass of José Porcayo – everything bends to the will of the music while highlighting the poignant virtuoso performances.
Above all it feels as if these performers have got the scale of this eloquent music just right: nothing forced; no obvious straining for effect, just fresh, thoughtful and command interpretations shot through with poetry and alertness. This is real Afro-Latin chamber music, highlighted by the lustrous violin of James Sanders. This recording will give you more and more as you return to it and may even end up blowing you off your feet by the time you peruse as early as the second time. Bravo James Sanders… bravo Conjunto…
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