Listen to Marcos Varela's San Ygnacio
and its' clear that this bassist not only knows how to make excellent straightahead jazz, he makes it sound easy.
It's not surprising that the album is so good, considering those Varela has playing with him, all fine composers and arrangers themselves. All one needs to do is look at Varela's counterparts in the rhythm section: pianist George Cables, defined by his harmonic sophistication and sparkling chords, and polyrhythmic drum-master Billy Hart. The band really works out on the standard "I Should Care", Logan Richardson playing alto saxophone as crisp and clear as a bell. The scene changes on "Colinas de Santa Maria", where Eden Ladin and Kush Abadey take over on piano and drums, respectively, with Arnold Lee on alto. These three return on Ladin's mercurial "Red on Planet Pluto" and bring a sound and texture to the table that is different but just as compelling.
Trombonist Clifton Anderson plays on a pair of cuts that he composed, "Mitsuru" and "Sister Gemini"; based on the way he writes and plays this man was born to swing and the band really digs deep with him. Hart contributes the ballad "Lullaby for Imke" and Cables adds the lovely waltz "Looking for the Light" while Varela borrows a pair of tunes from fellow bassist George Mraz' songbook: "Pepper is a showcase for tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens' ferocious playing while the leader struts his stuff on the clever trio tune "Picturesque", showing a refreshing willingness to step to the front more than most bassists. The album ends with the funky "Where the Wild Things Are", which contains more wicked bass.
Varela doesn't stay in the background, even when not soloing. He is rhythmically and harmonically inventive, holding the bottom down with considerable style and confidence. San Ygnacio
, with its balanced lineup of seasoned vets and up-and-coming starts, announces a formidable new talent.