(Ronnie Scott's, 28th February 2013. Second night of four. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
“You set me free.” The final words of the title track of Arturo Sandoval's Grammy-winning album 'Dear Diz (Every Day I Think Of You)' (Concord) express the sincere debt which the 63-year old Cuban-born feels to the man he calls “my mentor, my hero” Dizzy Gillespie. They are words which unmistakably come from very deep. It was Dizzy's inspiration which led Sandoval to defect and to make his life in the US. (That story became a feature film“For Love or Country” in 2001).
But those words about where one derives freedom from also express a lot about Sandoval's art. They speak volumes of the freedom to roam through many sound worlds and instruments which informs his delightful, irresistible way of making music. His contribution to the evening goes through many instruments, some of them real – piano, keyboard, percusson, jew's harp - and also imagined/ vocalized instruments– trumpet with imaginary valves on the microphone, plucked and arco bass (hilarious), vast drum kit for example. He also produces an astonishing range of sounds on the trumpet, including places which Jean-Baptiste Arban can never have dreamt of: notes from somewhere way down near the bottom of the range of a tuba.
Freedom is also something which Sandoval's regular touring band gives him. The combination of Zane Musa on saxophones, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya , John Belzaguy on bass, Alexis Arce on drums and Samuel Torres on percussion are capable of taking the mood and the style anywhere. The Californian (of Sri Lankan heritage) Balasooriya and the Cuban Arce in particular had that way of having already landed the plane in a completely new tempo or feel before you knew they'd taken off from the last one. The way the final encore A Night in Tunisia suddenly found itself in the hustle and bustle and rhythms and scales of an Egyptian market was just one of many surprising, precision-engineered transitions. To get transplanted again and again so magically just has to beat the rigours and the queues of real travelling every time.
Earlier in the evening, supporting trio Phil Peskett, Jeremy Brown and Chris Higginbottom really came into their own when they stretched out to deliver a fresh, communicative and loudly applauded Message in a Bottle.