Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez has made a jazz career in exploring its connections with the flamenco of his native Cadiz. On previous offerings, Dominguez has carved out a place where the various dance rhythms and sung cadences of flamenco find equal voice with jazz lyricism, exploration, and harmonic adventure. Flamenco Sketches began as a commission from the Barcelona Jazz Festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. The album is a re-visioned reading of the compositions on the iconic Davis album -- in different order -- as well as two other Davis compositions, "Nardis" (which he never recorded) and "Serpent's Tooth," from the trumpeter's Prestige years. Dominguez is accompanied by bassist Mário Rossy and percussionist Israel Suarez, with palmas (handclaps) from Blas Cordoba (who is also the vocalist here) and Tomás Moreno. Recorded live at the Jazz Standard (you can hear glasses tinkling in quieter moments); this recording is filled with the untranslatable flamenco word "duende" (something akin to "intense feeling"). Dominguez even arranged these tunes with dance steps included since they are an integral part of flamenco's rhythmic pulse -- among them are various tangos, bulerias, seguiriyas, and soleas; all are inextricably entwined with post-bop jazz. The 16-plus-minute title track with its elegant solo intro and languid melody commences just before the band gradually applies itself -- with gorgeous rhythm section work amid more pronounced Dominguez arpeggios -- vocalist Cordoba suddenly joins the ensemble with wails and moans in his raw, grainy baritone, extending the tune into flamenco's full musical sphere, but Dominguez never forgets that this is Davis' music he's playing. His solos quote from Bill Evans, Afro-Cuban jazz master Bebo Valdés, and others. The knotty, contrapuntal bop pianistic twists and turns through "Freddie Freeloader" are breathtaking, especially as the palmas, cajon (box drum), and bass find a way to move into one another and create several interwoven grooves simultaneously. "All Blues" remains the most "inside" tune here, but it too pushes jazz boundaries and literally steps inside the wild, creative world of flamenco (via a dance solo). Ultimately, Flamenco Sketches is a triumph, a fully realized portrait of Davis' music that showcases Dominguez as a brilliant pianist and arranger at the top of his game.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek