Bassist Leonardo Cioglia may be well on his way to becoming one of the premier contemporary Latin jazz bassists on the heels of Santi Debriano, Roberto Occhipinti, and Nilson Matta -- he's that good. For Contos, he synthesizes his heritage music with the neo-bop sounds of contemporary New York City, producing a stunningly wondrous series of tracks that defy a sense of convention while also using discernible signposts and icons of his peer group to make refreshingly new music. In the liner notes, credit is given to Donny McCaslin, David Binney, and Adam Rogers for helping Cioglia shape this music, and though none of them appear on the recording, their personalized approaches are quite extant and evident. Listen to Binney's great CD South teamed with Rogers and Chris Potter, or the Lan Xang albums featuring Binney and McCaslin to hear these stark similarities. Cioglia is the big gear turning the wheel of these compositions, all written by him, and in kind his bandmates take the cues of their peer group, running with them in forceful yet direct tones, phrases, and dynamic control. John Ellis is the saxophonist, consistently improving and going beyond Michael Brecker, while Michael Moreno takes Pat Metheny's sound image into his own soul, and Aaron Goldberg continues to emerge as one of the very best brilliant young jazz pianists of the 2000s. Top it off with the extraordinary drummer Antonio Sanchez, and you have a band that simply commits no double faults or unforced errors. Every track here is truly outstanding, starting with the bright and lively title track, back and forth from quiet fire contemporary intensity to free flowing, no-time John Coltrane-like expressionism. Modal piano and popping rhythms contrast the cool melody of "Filhos Do Pequi" in a manner similar to the music of Terence Blanchard, Aaron Parks, or Robert Glasper. When you listen to the complexity of "Planalto Central," you understand this is music played by true professionals, as the Ellis-Moreno tandem leads the charge on new jazz at its very best. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is added on six tracks, and he changes the language up a bit, whether on the spirit waltz "Santa Maria," the pretty and evocative "Olhos D'Agua" set up by Moreno's lovely wafting acoustic guitar, the delicate "Desfiladeiro De Nuvens" with Moreno again on his unamplified six-string and Harris switching to marimba, or the Gary Burton/Pat Metheny type tune "Pontos Cardeais" with its 5/4 rhythm solidly established by Cioglia, and Ellis musing on soprano sax. The deviations from what is a quite generally workable and consistent format are "Aroma De Mel" where Moreno adopts a steelier tone and stealth approach in a low-key mood as Goldberg's pianistic heart is on his sleeve, and "Cancao Ao Tempo," where Ellis overdubs clarinet, bass clarinet and especially his flute in a fully flowered, layered piece made more transparent by Goldberg and the rhythm section. Clearly a talented performer who has surrounded himself with top-notch young and experienced musicians who share his vision, Cioglia has captured and executed his music perfectly. Listeners of the current sound of jazz should thoroughly enjoy this recording which borders on extraordinary, and comes highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos