by Steph Cosme
Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra, Puertos: Music from International Waters Review
Pianist and composer Emilio Solla’s resume reads like a non-stop freight train to a destination of greatness. Hailing originally from Argentina, his music is infused with his homeland, but also his new home of New York. Since in New York, he has composed and arranged for and performed with Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo O’Farrill, and Edmar Castañeda. With eleven CDs to his name as a leader and more than forty as arranger/producer, he is considered a beacon of inspiration and a noteworthy expert of modern Argentine tango and folk with jazz and other contemporary music styles (generally referred to as Tango-Jazz). His latest endeavor Puertos, Music From International Waters, has garnered him a GRAMMY nomination for his composition “La Novena,” in the “Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella” category.
Positives: Solla has a way of bringing out the rich textures and sonic intricacies within his writing style. The album is brought to life by The Tango Jazz Orchestra, a fully blossomed 17-piece big band using a bandoneon, which further highlights the sensuality of the Latin American sound.
Bottom Line: Puertos, Music From International Waters has a theme of exploring the role of ports in the social amalgamation. Each of the eight compositions on this album is inspired by a port that has played a seminal role in the development of jazz, tango, or Solla’s creative life. Solla’s compositional style is filled with commitment in honoring traditions, while still seeking new creative avenues of musical discovery. “Four for Miles” has a traditional Tango harmonic progression coupled with a modern jazz feel and chordal voicings. The brass section counterpoint with the woodwind section is stunning. Also, of note is the colors Solla achieves with his use of mutes in the brass section. The trumpet soloing on this track is inspired. The band is terrific as Alex Norris and Jonathan Powell both turn in marvelous trumpet solos. “Allegrón (to Cartagena)” features the percussive and magical playing of harpist Edmar Castañeda. Solla’s writing pairs his stunning counterpoint and orchestration colors with Castañeda’s powerful playing. “Buenos Aires Blues (to New Orleans)” is an accurate representation of Tango-Jazz. The harmonies and melodic embellishments are a blend of both of those great musical traditions. Noah Bless’ trombone solo is outstanding. The minor blues form gives each soloist a chance to stretch out and play with this inspired rhythm section. The other soloist are Norris on trumpet, Terry Goss on baritone saxophone, and Julien Labre on accordina. The saxophone soli is stunning and shows further the chops that Solla possesses as a writer, which historically is the point of the saxophone soli. Overall, when combining the power of Solla’s masterful compositions with a group of world-class musicians, the result is magical Tango-Jazz. That’s the short of it!