Perico Sambeat

Perico

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Perico Sambeat is a saxophonist from Valencia, Spain with a substantial European reputation, a strong grounding in jazz fundamentals, and a taste for putting his alto (and soprano here) in interesting contexts -- like the two flamenco percussionists he adds to his regular quartet on four tracks on Perico. Flamenco rhythm forms were the basis for most of the material but Sambeat's own flowing melodic lines and twisting solos fall closer to late-'50s and early-'60s John Coltrane.

Perico throws a nice curve by opening on soprano with the ballad "Drume Negrito," before flamenco rhythm handclaps open "De Camino," where his fluid playing is impressively complemented by Bernardo Sassetti's McCoy Tyner-ish melodic flair and comping. "Diddi" again falls closer to ballad sensibility, unfailingly melodic and building to a climax, and "Cita en Nampur" begins to push the energy level higher, with the solos displaying their own internal logic and drummer Marc Miralta injecting some nice cross rhythms, especially behind Sassetti.

The pianist's tasty piano makes him the star support player while Javier Colina plays the unsung anchor, his bass- playing notable and unnoticeable all at once. The two "Descarga"s are brief blowing vehicles for Sambeat's ripping lines supported only by Miralta and guest percussionists Israel "Pirana" Suarez and Pepe Motos. The second feeds seamlessly into the opening cadenza of "Lo Pillas?" an uptempo finale with Sassetti and Sambeat nipping at each other's heels on the extended melody.

Perico is a good introductory disc that shows different facets of the saxophonist's musical personality -- writer, soloist, and bandleader -- to great effect. Maybe the best proof is the absence of any collisions stemming from the incorporation of flamenco forms and players -- it's totally organic music where nothing sounds forced.