Emilio Solla is reviewed by In A Blue Mood with Puertos: Music From International Waters

IN A BLUE MOOD

by Ron Weinstock

Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra

Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra
Puertos: Music from International Waters
Avantango Records

In 1986, Astor Piazolla praised Argentine-born and NY-based pianist and composer Emilio Solla’s first band, Apertura, who was praised by Astor Piazzolla himself as providing some of the most interesting new sounds in the Buenos Aires scene. Today, with eleven CDs as a bandleader and more than forty as arranger/ producer, Solla is considered one of the most outstanding and personal voices in Tango-jazz, as the fusion of modern Argentine tango and folk with jazz and other contemporary music styles is generally known.

He continues to tour Europe with his Barcelona’s based quintet, Emilio Solla & Afines while working as a free-lance arranger and pianist in different projects in NY. He leads a 9- piece orchestra, La Inestable de Brooklyn, and in November 2014, his first symphonic work had its World Premiere at the Palau de la Musica, during the Barcelona Jazz Festival and its US Premier at the Chicago Symphony Hall by the Chicago Sinfonietta. In 2018, he started composing for his brand-new project, the Tango Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece big band using a bandoneon, using his blend of Latin American sounds and jazz, The result is the recording which is inspired by the fact that traveling by water has been a principal pathway of migration. Tracing these routes of migration doesn’t just yield insights into our collective history but also our musical one, which we explore from the collisions of different countries and civilizations. As Solla observes having lived in the port cities of Buenos Aires and New York, “Both are integral to unique forms of music: jazz and tango. Foreigners made these port cities home and, in turn, made their place in the world.” He began writing and arranging music that invoking this theme of the role of ports in a cultural collision.

The performers on this recording include Alejandro Aviles  (soprano, alto, piccolo, flute), Todd Bashore (alto, flute, clarinet), Tim Armacost (tenor, alto flute, clarinet), John Ellis (tenor, soprano, clarinet, flute), Terry Goss (baritone, bass clarinet), Alex Norris (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jim Seeley (trumpet, flugelhorn), Brad Mason (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jonathan Powell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Noah Bless (trombone), Mike Fahie (trombone), Eric Miller (trombone), James Rodgers (bass trombone), Julien Labro (bandoneon, accordina), Emilio Solla (piano, conductor), Pablo Aslan (double-bass), and Ferenc Nemeth (drums). There are guest percussionists Samuel Torres (congas on track 1), Arturo Prendez (percussion on track 2), and Franco Pinna (bombo legüero on track 6). Arturo O’Farrill (piano on track 2) and Edmar Castañeda (harp on track 6) are special guests,

What stands out about this recording is how gorgeous Solla’s compositions and arrangements with the transitions in tempos and mood within all these performances. There is the energy of the opening “Sol La, al Sol” with standout tenor sax and trombone solos, as well as the interplay between the horn sections along with crisp rhythmic backing. There is the bop-Latin fusion of “Chacafrik“, with inspired alto sax along with Solla’s fresh, piano, with the rhythm section supporting the superlative horn section. The lovely “La Novena” showcases Labro’s marvelous organ-like soloing on the bandoneon as well as Terry Goss’ burly baritone sax, both set against the stormy atmospheric setting.

Four For Miles” provides a showcase for the brass with open-ended trumpet and trombone interplaying with muted brass and the energetic reeds with Labor weaving his lines in and out. This composition showcases the trumpeters who initially display plenty of fire exchanging choruses before transitioning to a muted trumpet’s smoldering heat. Again, Solla’s orchestration is sublime. Edmar Castañeda plucking of the harp provides a different flavor to “Allegrón,” as he duets with Franco Pinna on the bombo legüero, with the horns adding accents and musical colors to his remarkable playing. This exceptional session concludes with an unusual blues composition, “Buenos Aires Blues” again displaying the imagination and ingenuity of the leader with outstanding trombone, trumpet and baritone sax solos over the leader’s comping along with some superb ensemble sections.

With the inspired compositions and arrangements, exquisite ensemble playing and inspired solos, Emilio Solla’s “Puertos: Music from International Waters” is among the most compelling big band recordings of recent years.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a performance of “La Novena.”

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