THE HARTFORD COURANT / THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2005
Carli Munoz on "Maverick" takes a giant step toward gaining recognition in North America as a bona fide jazz pianist.
Although jazz has been his greatest musical passion since he was a teenager growing up in San Juan , Puerto Rico , you wouldn't know it from a pop résumé that includes an 11-year stint as keyboardist for the Beach Boys. Since 1998, the peripatetic pianist has also owned and operated Carli Café Concierto, a cosmopolitan supper club in historic Old San Juan.
If Munoz's résumé sounds odd for a jazz musician, his collaboration with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette is the real deal. Happily, he isn't some crossover artist seeking jazz cred, or a businessman indulging in Walter Mitty fantasies of jazz keyboard conquests.
A pianist with an unabashed romantic streak and strong melodic sense, Munoz digs deeply into six of his own compositions, Keith Jarrett's "Margot" and two standards.
Perhaps because he's self-trained and thus free of conservatory constraints, Munoz isn't at all inhibited from heart-on-the-sleeve self-expression. In fact, he's proud to go over the top in a lyrical, expressive manner. Always concerned with creating colors and moods, he loves bright block chords, ringing tremolos and single-note lines instantly selected for their beauty.
Gomez and DeJohnette are superb, inventive yet supportive. Tenor saxophonist David Sanchez and clarinetist Don Byron also sparkle in cameo roles, performing on one track apiece.
- OWEN MCNALLY, THE HARTFORD COURANT