CD REVIEW: Julian Argüelles – Tonadas


Julian Argüelles – Tonadas
(Edition EDN1116. CD review by Mike Collins)


Saxophonist and composer Julian Argüelles is surely one of the most distinctive voices in British and European jazz, whether playing or composing in ensembles large or small. Tonadas is his latest recording. Ivo Neame takes the piano chair for this outing alongside regulars Sam Lasserson on bass and James Maddren behind the kit.

Eight Argüelles originals, collected together under a title that means ‘tunes’ in Spanish, labels this tin pretty clearly. It’s almost impossible not to visualize swirling dances listening to Alegrias, Sevilla or old favourite Bulerias. Alala has the sound of an incantation with a pulsing groove whilst Barrio Gotica has saxophone, piano and bass in lock step as they unfurl a spiralling, swaggering, now bluesey, now Iberian-tinged mutating riff.

Alfama has a more country-ish edge to the progression and groove and an overtly lyrical melody, launching a rhapsodic solo from Neame and soaring, emotional invention from Argüelles on soprano. Tonadilla is a breathtaking ballad, a simple folk-like phrase anchoring the singing bass melody over a sigh of a long note from the saxophone, followed by an elegiac, hymn-like development from the band. Tia Mercedes is like an extended meditation that closes the set, the soprano sketching out a swooning melody, moving on, embellishing, the band following and commenting. It’s another moment of quiet beauty.

Lovingly crafted melodies and propulsive, dancing rhythms are just a starting point throughout. The evolution and form of some of these pieces are as sinuous and fluid as the melodic lines. Every detail is meant in these compositions. This is a band that takes it all in their stride, making it sound effortless. Interplay and improvisation gives the set vivid life. Neame brings his distinctive approach, patiently building solos that thrill on more up-tempo moments whilst giving a more poetic side full rein on others. Argüelles sounds at his peerless best and the combination of Lasserson and Maddren gives the music wings. This album is quintessential Argüelles and a delight to be savoured.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

1 comment:

  1. 'Most distinctive'... 'breathtaking', a lot of value judgements. Less so, explanations. In other words the reviewer liked the record, and finds a number of ways of expressing his liking without justifying what it is he has to say.

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