Bassist and composer Alexis Cuadrado is no stranger to chamber music or Spanish flavour. In 2008, the Barcelona-born musician won a Chamber Music America “New Works” grant. That grant led to the production of Noneto Ibérico, a deeply complex epic that spans various genres and moods throughout its 77 or so minutes.
As the follow-up to Puzzles, this recording is Cuadrado’s fourth as a leader. The nine movement piece is performed by nine musicians, most of which are fixtures from the New York scene. Along with Cuadrado’s double bass, Avishai Cohen features on trumpet, Loren Stillman plays saxophones, Brad Shepik plays guitar, Dan Tepfer provides the ivories, Alan Ferber brings the trombone, and Mark Ferber does more than keep time on the drums.
Spanish musicians Perico Sambeat (saxophone) and Marc Miralta (percussion) bless the album with their expertise in blending flamenco and jazz together. Israel Suárez “Piraña,” Tomás Moreno “Tomasito” and Blas Córdoba “Kejío” provide handclaps and more than a little flamenco flavour.
At the core of Noneto Ibérico is that sassy mesh of flamenco and jazz. Cuadrado bases each of the pieces on a specific “palo” (flamenco style) and builds outward, adding slabs of form and function to meet the rising needs of each composition. The music is highly expressive, flowing and escalating with elements of world music, chamber music and the like.
The opening number, “Very Well,” comes dressed as a sly and sexy fandango. It sits teasingly on Cuadrado’s bass lines and a purposeful rhythm. One can imagine an enraptured couple engaging in this sort of promising tussle of a dance on a sleek dance floor, paying attention to nothing but the night and each other.
The 17 minutes of “Por La Minima” opens with light strumming from Shepik. It wastes little time springing into a rabbit-quick flamenco. The metre plays a delicate but prominent role in opening the door for improvisation, while Miralta pops through his solo with fire and soul.
“Draconium” is built on a dramatic groove that just feels slick. It’s a sort of run-off tango, structured with force and passion at the powerful roots. Each note is hit with vigour and strength, with Cohen’s trumpet blasting through with remarkable heat. When the music slows, he switches gears and plays cool.
Noneto Ibérico is one of those very skilful pieces of music that really works best as a whole. It’s like a whirlwind tour through gorgeous, lush flamenco grooves. Brimming with passion and spice, Cuadrado has accomplished something truly hot with this one.