Latin music fans who are unfamiliar with this highly accomplished jazz pianist -- who makes his stateside debut as a leader here -- may see Edsel Gomez's name and the album title and make some sort of Cuban connection. In actuality, the Puerto Rican-born New York resident conceived this intriguing array of quirky and rhythmic, sometimes melodic, often avant-garde pieces around his fascination for Cubist art. His idea was to create music that translates the visual into aural perception, via an inspired series of melodic motifs (he dubs "unitifs") in his ensemble's improvised lines which form musical building blocks. That's the kind of setup that might disturb more mainstream Latin or bebop fans, but it's definitely a unique vision that open-minded listeners should explore before judging. The hypnotic and chops-heavy opening track captures the frenetic vibe of a "New York Taxi Ride," which is actually a Cubist reading of "Caravan." Gomez taps into a lighthearted spiritual element on the brisk hymn "To the Lord," and then chills into a soulful and graceful melodic mode via tracks like "Wolfville," "Juan Tizol" (homage to Duke Ellington's Puerto Rican-born trombonist), and the bluesy "The Minetta Triangle." Playful offbeat turns like "Coqui Serenade" (named after a native Puerto Rican frog) are balanced by darker, less engaging chamber music-flavored exercises à la "Empty House." The average jazz fan might have some trouble connecting with Gomez's slightly scattered vision, but they'll definitely recognize the brilliance of a great player who has been on the sidelines in the U.S. for too long.
Cubist Music Review
by Jonathan Widran