On this invigorating release, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez uses (primarily) the same working lineup that graced 2000's Melaza. He opted to produce this one himself, however. (Melaza was co-produced by Branford Marsalis.) Like its predecessor, Travesía resounds with rhythmic excitement and advanced compositional technique. But there's a bit more room for spacious lyricism, and even a bit of playfulness. A piece like altoist Miguel Zenon's "Joyful" wouldn't have fit the prevailing mood of Melaza, but here it sparkles. Zenon also penned "The Power of the Word," which closes Travesía on a more aggressive note. There's more non-original material this time around, including a fiery reworking of Wayne Shorter's "Prince of Darkness" and a non-ballad reading (without piano) of the Harold Arlen standard "Ill Wind." Three pieces drawn from Puerto Rican folk tradition -- "La Máchina," "Pra Dizer Adeus," and "Yo No Quiero Piedra" (the last also without piano) -- demonstrate Sánchez's inventiveness with the indigenous plena and bomba forms. The leader's three originals are also very strong: the urgent yet hopeful "Paz Pá Vieques," which begins and ends with lighthearted two-horn sparring; "River Tales," a sultry, dark melody in a dancing 6/8; and "Karla's Changes," a galloping piece, the title of which is probably inspired by Charles Mingus' "Sue's Changes." Magnificent playing abounds from Sánchez, Zenon, and the other main soloist, pianist Edsel Gomez. Despite the commercial pressures that come with a major-label recording career, Sánchez continues to maintain artistic independence and pursue a compelling and original vision.
AllMusic Review by David R. Adler