Perico Sambeat

Uptown Dance

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During Spanish saxophonist Perico Sambeat's 1991 stay in New York, he forged a bond with Michael Mossman, so there's some chemistry at play here -- it's no introductory handshake in the studio and let's get to work deal. The co-leaders evenly split eight originals and, with the Kenny Dorham ballad "Le Mesha" as the final entry, Uptown Dance is a very solid effort with David Kikoski's piano shining steadily in its supporting role. "No Peeking" opens with a melody delivered in fractured phrases that play around with space, rhythm, and time (very much like Thelonious Monk's "Evidence") but then turns into bright, Blue Note-ensemble bop in some segments, and keeps going off on unexpected tangents within the piece. Mossman returns to some of those compositional devices later on ("Cage of Ice") but the norm is more the fast-on-its-feet racehorse-feel of "Final Chance," with the horns adding harmonies behind Kikoski's solo. The only stumble is "Brokenhearted," where the music's light, springy flavor crosses the line to lightweight by taking on some very Latin-tinged MOR jazz touches. It doesn't help that Sambeat and Mossman aren't on their main axes -- the former's flute is okay, but the latter should leave his trombone in the closet at home. "The Menace" starts better with Sambeat playing sparer counterpoint lines to Mossman's melody flurries to arrive at the harmony blend -- another technique revisited in "Cage of Ice" -- and finally gives drummer Keith Copeland the solo he's been charged up for from the start. Copeland pushes but doesn't overplay -- if you can fault him, it's for keeping his playing at the same level, without many variations in dynamics or tempo -- and Bill Moring is one of those "invisible men" bassists who is satisfied with making the music work. And it does, because the players are obviously committed, with impressive solos and innovative touches that make the music sound alive. Sambeat's emotional, bluesy improvising marks the smoky, nightclub jazz noir take on "La Mesha," and both "2 x 1" and "En la Olla" land right in the pocket. The former sports both pithy and excellent solos by Mossman, with Sambeat bouncing through interval leaps, while Kikoski updates his sound to a Blue Note-bop with a nice bluesy feel ; neither overstays their welcome. Solid and well-crafted are the words that keep springing to mind, but those are often euphemisms for journeyman or workmanlike, and Uptown Dance is much better than that. You won't find any breathtaking new developments here, but you won't be disappointed by taking a chance on this consistently inventive music that clearly takes off from classic Blue Note-bop quintet models.