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Sumrrá: 5 Viajes / 5 Journeys
Presented with the idea of the jazz piano trio, one's first inclination might be to think of a delicate brand of music performed in a small NY bar amidst chattering clubgoers. The Spanish trio Sumrrá, by comparison, comes at its music from the opposite direction by stoking a fire that's almost unbelievably intense. Having performed together since 2000, pianist Manuel Gutierrez, bassist Xacobe Martínez Antelo, and drummer L.A.R. Legido bring an incredible degree of ferocity to their fifth album, a live set presented at Teatro Principal, Santiago de Compostela, Spain in January 2015 and inspired by cities in Bulgaria, France, Portugal, South Africa, and Bolivia.
Much ground is covered on the fifty-two minute recording, and the three take little time heating up. Yet as fiery as Sumrrá's attack generally is, 5 Viajes / 5 Journeys isn't without moments of restraint. The opening “Sofía,” for example, doesn't lunge from the gate; instead; the trio plays with a controlled elegance that allows their telepathic interactions to be easily monitored and appreciated. A nostalgic, even wistful quality emerges in Gutierrez's voicing of the piece's melodic content that remains in place even when the trio ups the volume and intensity. Lyrical, too, is “Santa Cruz,” which the group plays at a slower tempo, all the better to reveal the different shadings the three coax from their instruments.
On “Johannesbourg,” the trio dips into funk and R&B before turning its attention to a rapidly mounting jazz groove, whereas the Latin-tinged “Pretoria” burns from the get-go. Making sure that the music never gets too polite is drummer Legido, who digs into the material with an at times monumental force. Missteps are few, though “La Paz,” an otherwise splendid ballad featuring a melancholy bass solo that could pass for Antelo paying homage to Charlie Haden, is marred by the intrusive presence of an annoying high-pitched noise (kind of like the sound one produces blowing on a blade of grass).There's nothing innovative about the instrumentation involved; nor does Sumrrá advance music into uncharted territory. But while the material on 5 Viajes / 5 Journeys is firmly in the tradition, there's no denying the vitality of the playing and the conviction of the musicians responsible for it. On this recording at least, the energy level of Sumrrá's playing equals if not surpasses the kind documented on the trio recordings of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, as stellar as they are.