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Disc review: Antonio Sanchez, Meridian Suite

Jazz

Antonio Sanchez & Migration

“The Meridian Suite”

3.5 stars

[CamJazz]

Extraordinary drummer Antonio Sanchez and his band Migration just played this extremely ambitious long suite at the Rochester Jazz Festival (how tragic to have no festival as high level as that here anymore. Rochester’s and Toronto’s are the closest.) This is not as exceptional as Sanchez’s disc “Three Times Three” in which the drummer who was robbed of a Best Score Oscar for his “Birdman” drum music (improvisations aren’t eligible, somewhat incredibly) played with three separate trios on a two disc set with the likes of Brad Mehldau, John Scofield and Joe Lovano. But it’s enormous evidence of exactly how powerful a small group jazz composer Sanchez is, as well as how powerful a leader.

His group here is exceptional: tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist John Escreet and bassist Matt Brewer with guest appearances by singer Thana Alexa and guitarist Adam Rogers. What Sanchez says here so inspirationally is that this suite was created by wondering what would happen “if I didn’t worry about time or style constraints if I didn’t care about whether the material was too long for radio play. If I didn’t stop myself of edit my creative flow to fit certain parameters. If I just kept on writing.” He calls it “the equivalent of a musical novel instead or seven or eight short stories,” something that “encompasses everything I am today as a composer, an artist and a human being.” To understate the case, he recommends that the 55-minute work be listened to with “the shuffle function on your listening device” turned OFF.

– Jeff Simon

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