Marta Sanchez’s creative voice is strikingly original – circling rhythms, elaborate forms and criss-crossing counterpoint distinguishes her sonic signature on the crowded New York contemporary music scene. Following three critically acclaimed quintet releases, the Madrid-born pianist-composer presents SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) on Whirlwind Recordings, an album driven by emotional candour and boundary-pushing compositions. A talented cast realizes her knotty, technical writing – frontline partners Alex Lore and Roman Filiu meet Sanchez, Rashaan Carter and Allan Mednard on backline duties.
SAAM riffs on the Smithsonian American Art Museum in an album that’s an exhibition of Sanchez’s life in musical form: “It’s made up of all the elements of society from both countries [Spain and America] that impact my life and make me who I am.” Matters internal and external are realized in musical expositions of complex feelings. The pieces took shape in lockdown, as Sanchez exchanged fortnightly composition tasks with a pen-pal. “Those compositions express all the phases I was going through at that time. I was reflecting super deeply on what’s important, and how to achieve a meaningful life.”
Most of the album draws on those precisely realized emotions. The coloristic, texturally driven opener ‘The Unconquerable Areas’ describes parts of herself “that are still vulnerable. These weak parts of myself; even though I’ve been dealing with them for a long time, they’re still there.” Similarly reflective is “Dear Worthiness,” a “sad ballad that reflects on my self worth” – it features lithely beautiful melodies, but melancholy is never far away. SAAM cuts through that smoothness, in a jagged, Schoenberg-inspired outburst full of intense feelings and dense clusters, built around an essential pain.
A different form of pain features in ‘The Eternal Stillness” – mournful sighs and cries emanate from the saxophones, as layered textures shift underneath. Then something very different comes along – “Marivi,” featuring Ambrose Akinmusire and Camila Meza, offers a warm tribute to Sanchez’s mother, who died during lockdown. “I tell her things I could never tell her,” says Sanchez of the lyrics. “I loved my mum but it was really hard to tell her the deep things.”
“If You Could Create It” strikes a lighter tone, with cascading torrents of tenor sax sound, before “The Hard Balance” offers reflection, both musically and personally – the track is finely balanced on an intricate polyrhythm, that reflects the difficulties of maintaining a work-life balance. “December 11th” is the day Sanchez’s mother died, a personal tribute featuring an extended, heartfelt piano solo. The album concludes with “When Dreaming is Only,” the most complex tune on the album; insistent piano rhythms and duelling saxophones give way to a band texture that’s bustling, brimming with energy. “Sometimes I just take the vibe, compose the atmosphere, and sometimes I focus on something super specific.” Sanchez’s ability to tap into emotional expression through detailed instrumental music is without parallel – this collage of moods and feelings is testament to that.
Alex LoRe: alto saxophone
Roman Filiu: tenor saxophone
Marta Sanchez: piano and compositions
Rashaan Carter: bass
Allan Mednard: drums
With special guests Michelle Willis: vocals and guitar, and Kenny Warren: trumpet.
“The pianist Marta Sánchez, who moved to New York from Madrid in 2011, has one of the most quietly memorable groups in jazz.” (Giovanni Russonello for The New York Times). The Marta Sanchez Quintet was started in 2012 and since then has released four albums: “Partenika” (2015), “Danza Imposible” (2017), “El Rayo de Luz” (2019) and “SAAM” (2022). Two of these albums were selected by The New York Times as one of the best 10 albums of the year. The quintet has performed extensively around the globe, including at festivals such as the Winter Jazz Festival, Vitoria Gasteiz Jazz Festival, and the Madrid Jazz Festival.
Marta Sanchez came to New York in 2011 thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship to do a Master in Jazz Piano Performance at NYU. Since then, her main project, her quintet, has released four albums: “Partenika” (2015), “Danza imposible” (2017), “El Rayo de Luz” (2019).and SAAM (2022) All of the albums received great reviews from the American press being two of these records, “Partenika” and “El Rayo de Luz” selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 best albums of 2015 and Best 10 jazz albums of 2019. Her records have been praised at “Fresh Air”, DownBeat, WBGO, among many other outlets. She has toured the United States, Europe, South America and Central America, performing as a leader or as a sideman at prestigious venues and festivals such as North Sea Jazz Festival, Eurojazz in Mexico City, Eurojazz in Athens, Jazz Festival Vitoria Gasteiz, Winter Jazz Festival in New York, Madrid Jazz Festival and many others. In 2017 and 2021 she was granted a residency at MacDowell Colony.
Praised by The New York Times as a saxophonist who is “…making the connections among about 70 years’ worth of contemplative, articulate and light–toned players,” Alex LoRe is one of the most in-demand alto saxophonists and composers on the New York music scene. With a strong upbringing in classical music and mentored by such masters as Lee Konitz, George Garzone, and Bunky Green, LoRe’s playing and compositions reflect a myriad of influences ranging from the European classical repertoire through today’s most influential artists on both the jazz and popular music scenes. Saxophonist Bunky Green says LoRe “…will emerge to become one of the leading voices on the international jazz scene.”
New York-based Roman Filiú has been a saxophonist, bandleader, composer for over 20 years. Born and raised in Santiago de Cuba, he has played, recorded, and toured worldwide with a great variety of artists. He is currently a member of Henry Threadgill´s Ensemble Double Up, has played in Chucho Valdés´Irakere, has been the musical director of David Murray´s Big Band and has played with outstanding musicians Andrew Cyrille, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Steve Coleman Dafnis Prieto, Milford Graves, Miguel Zenón, Doug Hammond, Nasheet Waits, Michele Rosewoman, Omara Portuondo, Marcus Gilmore, Lázaro Ross, Alain Pérez, Iván Melón Lewis, Román Díaz, Damion Reid, Pablo Milanés, Liberty Ellman, Stephan Crump, Pepe Rivero, Adam Rogers, Rez Abassi, Roy Hargrove, and Chano Domínguez to name a few.
Rashaan Carter grew up in the Washington D.C. area. Moved to New York to studied at the New School with Buster Williams and Reggie Workman. While attending the New School he also began to work with many of the faculty including Joe Chambers and Jimmy Owens, among others. Since moving to New York Rashaan has become entrenched in the jazz scene and has worked with Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller and Louis Hayes, Wallace Roney, Marc Cary, Cindy Blackman, Doug and Jean Carn, Antoine Roney, Sonny Simmons, and many more.
Allan Mednard was born and raised in Queens, New York. He has played with ensembles led by Kurt Rosenwinkel, Aaron Parks, Ben Street, Ben Allison, Godwin Louis, Andrew D’Angelo, Alix Ambroise, Jaleel Shaw, Le Boeuf Brothers, Melissa Aldana, and many more.