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Of Soul and Shadow

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Album Review

On his fourth CD and second for his own indie label Pelin Music, the versatile and innovative pianist, percussionist and composer Luis Munoz again spreads the melodic, densely rhythmic joy across Latin America (he's a native of Costa Rica), Brazil, the tropics and — during those cool, more traditional jazz moments — the innovative streets of New York. While ensembling seamlessly and energetically with longtime cohorts like Nico Carmine Abondolo (acoustic bass), Randy Tico (bass), Tom Buckner (saxes) and Adolfo Acosta (trumpet), Munoz also invited some exciting new guests to the sessions near his home in Santa Barbara, CA: Rámses Araya (Rubén Blades), trombonist Ira Nepus (Diana Krall) and hot NYC saxman David Binney. With those talents surrounding his own melodic invention and use of fanciful percussion instruments, Munoz could easily overpower the listener, but he gets off to a more subtle start, with Gilberto Gonzalez's graceful acoustic guitar melody over an hypnotic keyboard harmony — and then John Nathan's jumpy island marimba kicks in, followed by Binney's intense sax solo. Munoz opens "Verde 'Mundo Infinito" with a taste of home, sampling the Costa Rican rainforest for a moment and then duetting with himself on percussion and marimba as a prelude to a snazzy brass-driven Latin jam. "La Semilla" keeps the percussion and horns maneuvering behind Jonathan Dane's lyrical trumpet melody; then, just as the party gets going, Munoz offers a moody surprise on "Al Silencio," a trio piece enhanced by Ron Kalina's chromatic harmonica; he goes the same route on the lush and dreamy "Mas Alla," a dedication to his wife. On the quickie interlude "Luz del Sur," Munoz fashions a new hybrid one might call "surf rock/country/tropical music" with the help of Bill Flores on pedal steel. "La Verdad" is multicultural in a different way, with South African flavored rolling guitars and horn accents behind Andy Zuñiga's Spanish vocals. The fun part of indie jazz projects like these is that there's no corporate power to answer to that might question the artistic wisdom of a haunting orchestral piece after a mariachi-spiced dance tune. With this collection, Munoz takes the concept of eclecticism to a whole new and exciting level.

Of Soul and Shadow, Luis Munoz
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