The alto saxophonist Luis Deniz may have been a relatively late Cuban arrival in Canada, descending upon the music scene in Toronto in 2004. However, the fact that he has rapidly made amends is an indication that his remarkable musical voice to numerous studio sessions and live performances by Canadian artists is a testament to the adaptability and maturity of this saxophonist and pedagogue from Havana – via Camagüey.
Mr Deniz is one of at least two extraordinary alto saxophonists from Camagüey – the other is Yosvany Terry, now based in Boston – who have melded the heritage of Afro-Cuban voices with the wider world of music in a rather revolutionary manner. Mr Deniz’s caterwauling ululations certainly sound like no other musician – certainly no other Cuban alto saxophonist of whom you may have heard before. Mr Deniz’s penetrating wail, which certainly sounds as if it is evocative of the cosmic yowl of John Coltrane playing [tenor or] soprano saxophone.
It always seems wise to dally awhile before a debut recording. Mr Deniz’s El Tinajón certainly proves this in more ways than one. It speaks directly from the vessels’ wide mouth of the maturation of the musician in a manner that tells of paying ones’ dues, absorbing influences by listening deeply to conjuring them forth, from the depths of the musical continuum. Certainly in Mr Deniz’s case the approach has resulted in a musical event that aligns with the ancestors – quite separate from the ‘musical herd’ – as Mr Deniz pours his musical heart and soul out into a musical cosmos all his own, exquisitely shaped by his wife and producer Teri Parker.
Thus there is a natural progression of sonic adventure in the narratives and meditative nature of the themes that seem to have a defined beginning and a climatic dénouement – right from the melodic rumbling of “Reflexiones” to the natural conclusion of the journey – with a doffing of the proverbial hat – to the Floridian panhandle and that other volcanic epicentre of Afro-Cuban music with “Conga para Florida”. Along the way we are treated to some of the finest music that Mr Deniz has created so far.
This fine quintet repertoire offer an intense and captivating distilled insight into Mr Deniz’s compositional voice. As each work unravels we are treated to the wonderfully entrancing tone – developing from questing, bright and characterful melodic lines. Each is like a sonic sculpture that beckons the rest of the ensemble to contribute caressing harmonies that ornament the suggestive melodies. In this regard, Rafael Zaldivar is highly evocative and yet does not compromise on his own virtuoso pianism, as he adorns melodies with elegant cascading runs and vaunted arpeggios, sometimes atomised by the ethereal voice of Adis Rodriguez Galindo.
A monumental and elegant rhythmic wall was always meant to be. After all Roberto Occhipinti brings to bear all of his richly textured and intoned bass-playing. He is the glue that binds the impressive rhythmic edifice also peopled by the wonderful Amhed Mitchell on drums and the great Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” on congas, bàtá and minor percussion. Each of the musicians joins in to maintain the beautifully entrancing tenor of [the music on] throughout the works’ challenges and changes.
Tracks – 1: Reflexiones; 2: La Ceiba de Mayuya; 3: Rumba para Camagüey/Equality; 4: Entre dos ideas; 5: Bolero; 6: Gesture; 7: Dutch Flower; 8: Strong Together; 9: Conga para Florida
Musicians – Luis Deniz: alto and soprano saxophones, and compositions; Rafael Zaldivar: piano and keyboards; Roberto Occhipinti: contrabass; Amhed Mitchel: drums and vocals; Adis Rodriguez Galindo: vocals; Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco”: congas, bàtá and minor percussion
Released – 2022
Label – Modica Music
Runtime – 47:34
YouTube Playlist – Luis Denis: El Tinajón