Antonio Sanchez – Three Times Three

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The Mexican drummer is probably best known for his work in Pat Metheny’s groups, although he first came to prominence with Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra and as part of his teacher Danilo Perez’s trio. He has also played with a wide range of jazz greats, including Gary Burton and Michael Brecker.

For this, his fourth album in his own name, he has chosen three different pairs of musicians to work with, recorded three tunes with each, and the result is a substantial double CD of three threesomes sharing Antonio as their common factor.

First up is Brad Mehldau on acoustic piano and Matt Brewer on double bass. They stretch out on Miles Davis’s Nardis turned into Nar-this, plus two Sanchez originals. Sanchez is not your shrinking violet – even among upfront drummers he could be classified as among the more confident. He pushes from the start and Mehldau and Brewer rise easily to the challenge. the result is a piano trio that comes on like a rock power band while still maintaining all the nuance and subtlety we expect from jazz players of this stature. It’s exhilarating stuff, and Constellations, medium-paced and brimful of rocking grooviness, could have gone on for twice its near-14 minutes I was enjoying it so much.

On to disc two and first up are John Scofield on electric guitar and Christian McBride on double and electric basses. They get two more Sanchez originals plus Wayne Shorter’s Fall. McBride fills the room on his own, while Sanchez dances around him on beautifully echoing toms and crisp cymbals (want to know how to record drums – listen to this album!), and Scofield weaves his enthralling, long-sentenced stories over it all. One can spend one listen marvelling at Sco’s mastery of constantly adapting his tone and timbre through a melody statement or a solo, and then spend countless more listens getting in to his actual story rather than just the (extraordinary) way he tells ’em. For the deepest funk, try Nooks And Crannies.

And for trio number three, welcome please Mr Joe Lovano on the tenor saxophone and Mr John Patitucci on the double bass. The beginning of Leviathan suggests things are going to get a little more laid-back now, but hang on, this is an Antonio Sanchez album – the man is not going to chill out with some quiet brushwork is he? He is not. Lovano is soon honking and squealing away while Sanchez and Patitucci stir things up in driving manner. Sanchez does spend so time with the brushes on Firenze, which is full of space and loose dialogue between tenor and bass, and then it’s on to Monk’s I Mean You for more shrieking and storms, before the trio settles into a slow, then speeding up, then slowing again, quiet then full-on, reading of this classic.

Two discs of brilliant playing from some of the most brilliant jazz musicians alive today. It could have ended up being a bit incoherent as a whole double album, but so strong is Sanchez’s musical character that he holds it all together.

  • To buy Antonio Sanchez’s Three Times Three go here.

Categories: CD review

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