Noneto Iberico expands bassist Alexis Cuadrado's ongoing campaign to apply traditional song forms of Spanish Flamenco music to the jazz idiom. His original work was done in a trio format‚ but a Chamber Music America grant allowed him to expand both the music and the band. The result is a glorious nine-piece set performed by a devastating group that features twice the daily requirement of cross-cultural magic.
Not only does the opener "Very Well (Fandango)" give us a long-form introduction to Cuadrado's vision‚ but it also lets us experience the exciting cross-pollination of Cuadrado's musical world. Brad Shepik's guitar and Dan Tepfer's keyboards are well-established in the New York scene Cuadrado frequents‚ but reedman Perico Sambeat is a Spanish import most state-siders haven't experienced until now‚ but it was worth the wait. His soprano sax adds a spicy jazz element to Cuadrado's opening bowed meditation‚ a precursor to a cascading dive into the fandango itself. Shepik and Tepfer act like sheepherders‚ pulling the piece tighter as the horns add layer on layer of color to music that was pretty bright to start with‚ and then Sambeat's soprano gets downright dangerous.
Sambeat and percussionist Marc Miralta may be new to the rest of us‚ but Avishai Cohen's trumpet is now a divine fact of life‚ and his work on Noneto confirms that the man can do anything he wants: He's blowing and dancing with a vengeance on "Draconium (Tanguillos)" and his easy lines on the unpredictable "Tocar y Parar (Alegrias)" suggest a man playing his horn from a comfortable chair‚ completely at home while he takes care of business. Shepik alternates between fluid acoustic and glowing hollow-body electric for most of the date‚ but his feedback Jones gets amply fed on the free-form intro to "Solo El Sol Sale Siempre Solo (Soleá)."
Since the base of the music is Flamenco‚ it's no surprise Noneto dances like a demon. "Draconium" starts with a complex rhythm that sounds like El Greco stepping out on a Friday night‚ while the handclaps on the "Tocar" practically insist that you get out of your chair. "Por La Minima (Bulerias)" is "merely" insistent‚ in that the seventeen-minutes-plus piece is one big tapestry of pulsing‚ hypnotic figures that rise and fall with the urgency Cuadrado wishes to communicate. It seems to go nowhere‚ but it's a Zen thing. Give it time.
I've never liked the term "World Music." It sounds like a flaccid umbrella term for non-Western music radio programmers don't understand. Occasionally‚ though‚ it attains what should be its real purpose‚ which is describing a moment where music from one culture interacts with music from another to create something new and exciting. In that light‚ Noneto Iberico is truly World Music‚ and while you may not know the steps themselves‚ the music definitely speaks to that light-footed elf inside us all that can't wait to exclaim‚ "I gotta dance!"