City of Dreams

David Gonzalez

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City of Dreams Review

by David Dupont

Poet and guitarist David Gonzalez, with the backing of his Poetic License Band (actually drummer Bobby Sanabria's working band plus Gonzalez), pays tribute to his native New York. His celebration of New York as a "city of dreams" comes from a distinctly New York-ian perspective, yet his vision is inclusive of the city's diversity. The city is a "minestrone.. wonton gumbo," as he puts it. "I release myself to you the way lovers give up their sanity," he says, addressing the city itself in the title track. His devotion is akin to a contemporary version of Duke Ellington's tone poem "Harlem Airshaft," cataloging the sounds of the city as on "8 Million Dreamers Dreaming." Given what would seem to be the rather limited instrumental palette of the quartet -- modestly supplemented by several tracks from vocalist Lisa Sokolov and on one track each by Oliver Lake on alto saxophone and Yomo Toro on cuatro -- Gonzalez finds just the right musical textures to complement his verse. The grooves are largely varieties of Latin, with some subtle jazz-rock, and on "Yankeelandia," exuberant swing. On most of the tracks, drummer Sanabria's bass drum tattoo provides the heartbeat. It quickens with the words on the high-speed "The Cross Bronx Expressway." That contrasts with the string textures employed on "The Secret of the Ceiba Tree," a nostalgic reminiscence about a family visit back to Puerto Rico. Bassist Boris Kozlov provides striking colors as the sole instrumentalist on "Neruda's Eagle" and pianist John DiMartino tracks the shifting emotional currents of "Angel Dust," a tale of addiction and tentative redemption. At times Gonzalez's words verge on the sentimental, but he always pulls back with the telling image, all the better to paint a gritty yet heartfelt portrait of his city and world.

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