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Manel Fortià Trio – ‘Despertar’

Manel Fortià Trio – Despertar

(Microscopi. Album review by Jon Turney)

The rich-toned bassist Manel Fortià, originally from Barcelona is the leader here but the recording features a trio of strong personalities who contribute as equals. Like his French drummer Raphaël Pannier, Fortia has lived and worked in New York and now returned home, with an ambition to blend US and European strains in jazz. They are joined by the Spaniard’s compatriot Marco Mezquida – from Menorca – on piano in a unit that is beautifully in tune with Fortia’s compositions – inspired by his time in New York but combining broader influences in a beguiling personal synthesis.

The pianist is new to me but is evidently a young leading light on the Spanish jazz scene. He responds brilliantly to Fortia’s writing, turning sometimes simple themes into rhapsodic cascades, or grooving mightily in Keith Jarrett mode. Pannier adds a remarkable range of textures, conveying as much urgency when his playing is whisper quiet as when he unleashes more muscle power.

Fortia himself is a bass player’s bass player, with a sound to die for and a rhythmic feel that is equally at ease with flamenco and deep gospel. He can be strikingly Hadenesque when he wishes, most obviously in the opening notes of Dormir, the first tune, and the closer, Despartar (“wake”). That influence also catches the ear on several latin-flavoured pieces, especially the beautiful Aires de Libertad. Then you remember that Haden had a special affinity with Spanish and South American melodies – and liberation anthems – especially in his work with Carla Bley, and it is clear the whole album is one of those that rides on circulating currents that bring music from Europe to the Americas, and back again. When the climate is favourable, as here, and the players inspired, each turn of the cycle infuses the music with new life

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol.   Twitter @jonwturney

Release date is 12 May.

LINK: Microscopi label website

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