Argentinean composer and bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi's group includes many family members including José Maria Saluzzi on guitars, Felix "Cuchara" Saluzzi playing saxophones and clarinet, and Matias Saluzzi is featured on acoustic and electric bass, with the great Italian drummer U.T. Ghandi on hand for this session recorded at home in Buenos Aires. Juan Condori is Saluzzi at his most relaxed and instinctive. This music is deeply embedded in the folk traditions of the region, as well as the tango and the ballroom music of the country, both rural and urban in an era long gone. The title of the set refers to an old childhood friend from an indigenous family who Saluzzi refers to as "an almost magical figure." Clocking in at over 76 minutes, this is one of those dates where one piece seems to naturally flow into the next, the warmth of the ensemble, and their instinctive familiarity with one another in the title track, where what amounts to a kind of memento mori is played for the namesake. The sounds of the mountains, the sunset, the trees and the lush valleys evoke a time that has always been previous. The interplay between bandoneon and acoustic guitar is simply as mysterious as it is mournful. Different modes and melodies enter and leave and note the passage of time -- in years, not minutes -- until an absolute kind of free improvisation takes over for a tumultuous moment and Cuchara's clarinet brings it all back into the stillness again. He is the one who takes the tune out on his tenor as well, playing slow, low, growling notes. As if to underscore this, "Memoria," begins almost out of the silence of the previous track, playing an askew kind of tango that doesn't fall into three/four, but challenges the form as electric guitar and bandoneon play counterpoint with one another. "La Parecida" is almost a celebration by contrast, but it too is by turns knotty and almost pastoral. Saluzzi's bandoneon rings out a sweet song as bass, guitar, drums and acoustic guitar follow him into a dance that becomes by turns dramatic and dynamic -- especially as Cuchara enters. All of this is cyclical, as is José Maria's acoustic guitar and the soprano saxophone engaging in a melodic improvisation that underscores the song with ferocity. While Manfred Eicher's production is, as usual, signature, he is able to respond to this family band and warm things up considerably without giving up an ounce of clarity or pristine presentation. Juan Condori is one of those recordings where jazz, folk music, and improvisation all wind themselves into the notion of a complex but utterly beguiling song.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek