Chano Domínguez at the Jazz Standard (photo courtesy of Zak Shelby-Szyszko).
Today at the Wall Street Journal. By Will Friedwald
«This is the best possible kind of a "tribute," in which the music is so good and so original that it hardly requires the hook of the concept. Rather than, say, a trumpeter re-creating Miles Davis's distinctive vocalized tone with a metal mute, Spanish pianist Chano Domínguez's new release, "Flamenco Sketches," is about repaying a debt. In 1959, Davis was inspired by Spanish music to create "Flamenco Sketches," the closing number on "Kind of Blue." Now, Señor Domínguez is taking that debt and paying it forward by recasting all five numbers on that seminal album in his distinctive keyboard style, which is in itself a perfect blend of flamenco and jazz traditions. Even apart from the Iberian angle, the gentleman from Cádiz is playing these melodies with more beauty and imagination than virtually anyone since Davis and Bill Evans first conceived them.
»Mr. Domínguez, who has already been a key participant in several high-profile crossovers of jazz and Spanish music, makes it nearly impossible to tell where the flamenco ends and the jazz begins in this performance. Apart from the geographically mandated musical disciplines interacting on "Flamenco Sketches," he has at least three different harmonic systems in play: standard Western harmony, as used in most bebop (Davis's background); the modal system of jazz that Davis pioneered on "Kind of Blue" (in which melodies are improvised on scales rather than chords); and the pentatonic scale prevalent in most of the world, including the Iberian peninsula. The latter was represented by Blas "El Kejio" Cordoba, the fourth member of Mr. Domínguez's trio, who, at Jazz Standard, sat to the right of bassist Omer Avital and drummer Dafnis Prieto. Mostly, Mr. Cordoba offered "manual percussion" (clapping his hands), but occasionally he would break forward with wild cantorial cries, which, at first, to most of our North American ears, sounded terribly out of tune—until we realized he was singing pentatonically.
»In all of Mr. Domínguez's treatments, the melody is right there in plain sight, waiting to be detected. Cleverest is his revision of Davis's "All Blues," the tune that did more than any other to introduce the waltz to modern jazz, and now in a solid 4/4. Throughout, the pianist pays equal tribute to Davis and Bill Evans, Davis's key collaborator on the 1959 sessions, especially when he hints at Evans's intro to the title track, "Flamenco Sketches," at the same point that Evans himself referenced Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time" and his own "Peace Piece." The two composers dictated a course of modes for the improvisor to play through, hence the term "sketches," rather than a specific melody, although most subsequent versions use Davis's solo as if it were the head. Mr. Domínguez's solo is so fully realized that it seems more like a painting than a sketch, even while Mr. Cordoba's moaning and wailing is unmistakably flamenco. As part of the overall package, it's a whole other kind of blue.»