Jorge Sylvester, In the Ear of the Beholder (75:54) Jazz Magnet JAM-2003 2001 Jorge Sylvester's Afro-Caribbean Experimental Trio is comprised of the leader on alto saxophone, Donald Nicks on electric bass, and Bobby Sanabria on drums and bells. Don't let the word "experimental" in the group's name fool you, for the music on this album is easy to listen to, even with its advanced conceptual ambitions. "Sly Mangoose," composed by Jack Edwards, is a happy samba that Charlie Parker once played. And "Corazon Rebelde," a ballad by Alberto Barreto, has something of the quality of a Gershwin tune. Granted, these are the two non-originals of the set, but Sylvester's compositions also have an accessible lilt, thanks most of all to the irresistible rhythmic drive of Nicks and Sanabria, who make every track dance. The complex opening theme, "Tambor - The Mix," sets a serious tone, however, as Sylvester and crew explore the precise geometry of the tune, launching into double-time for solos (alto and bass) before returning to an abbreviated statement of the theme. "Por La Clave" and "In the Ear of the Beholder (Por La Clave, Part II)" are a bit more involved. The latter stretches to nearly 20 minutes in length, with a number of different sections - including, along the way, a stunning out-of- tempo solo by Nicks and ferocious grooving by Sanabria about halfway through the tune. Throughout the session, it seems there's nothing Sanabria, a great Latin bandleader in his own right, can't handle. Nicks has one of the most organic electric bass sounds around; he solos with incredible facility, plays grooves with unerring feel and endurance, and often evinces a subtle harmonic touch, using double-stops either to spell out cadences or supply additional low end (check out "Songoajira" and "Tropicando"). Sylvester's alto work is deeply rooted in bebop but fluent in the most modern of horn vocabularies. With this album, he makes his mark as one of the more advanced, imaginative voices in Afro- Caribbean jazz. ~David R. Adler
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