By David Miller
The best jazz always comes from kindred spirits. When artists share a vision and a thirst for innovation, they can always come together and make a great record. It doesn't matter if they've ever played together, or if they've been gigging together. The best bands can just rip right into a tune without missing a beat.
Sometimes, when artists share a heritage or nationality, they can be kindred spirits without ever meeting. Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcaba are a prime example. So are Carli Muñoz and Eddie Gomez . Maverick is the latest project that the two have worked on together. The disc is essentially a straightahead piano trio record (the unparalleled Jack DeJohnette plays drums) with a few like-minded artists (David Sanchez, Don Byron, and Jane Scarpantoni) adding their unique contributions to certain pieces.
The astounding interplay among the players helps distinguish this album from other piano trio efforts. Gomez and Muñoz have played together on many occasions at Muñoz's Carli Café Concerto, and Gomez and DeJohnette have crossed paths many times, most notably with Bill Evans' trio. That leaves Muñoz and DeJohnette. Said the pianist, "I mentioned that I felt a connection with Jack DeJohnette. We're close to the same age and I like Jack's feel, his vibe, all the different things he's done." DeJohnette is also a veteran of some of the greatest trios to have graced the stage, including those with Evans, Hank Jones, and Keith Jarrett. When three artists of this caliber are put together in a room, sparks are bound to fly.
A second distinguishing feature of this album is Muñoz's compositional acumen. His compositions are deceptively simple and could very easily be mistaken for standards. "Yellow Moon Tune" is sprawling in its beauty, evoking a landscape or a starry night. Scarpantoni contributes magnificently on cello. "Three Little Steps to Heaven" incorporates the playfulness of Chick Corea with the simplicity and heavy chords of Herbie Hancock. And each composition is given reverential treatment by the trio.
Muñoz's style gives the trio a very full, almost orchestral sound. At no point does the music feel rushed; the pianist's lush chords engulf each soloist, giving him a space in which to improvise. Gomez's elastic style alternates between giving the music such support that he is nearly lost in the mix and soloing perfectly over the melody. DeJohnette's signature cymbals and perfect pitch pervade the record, giving each tune the right backbone and just enough of an edge and swing backbeat.
David Sanchez, another Puerto Rico native, adds his tenor to the title track, another brilliant Muñoz composition. Gomez solos first, playing around the chord changes with ease. Muñoz evokes a softer McCoy Tyner with his solo, bringing the tune to a crescendo before Sanchez brings it back to earth with a few simple notes. Those few notes are jazz at its best. Sanchez suggests musically which direction he would like to go, and the other musicians follow immediately. Completely spontaneous, yet perfectly collective. Only kindred spirits can achieve this sort of communication.
David Miller /ALLABOUTJAZZ