By Paul de Barros | Published August 2018
Longtime Pat Metheny drummer Antonio Sanchez, who wrote the all-percussion soundtrack for the 2014 film Birdman, teams up with arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza for a dazzling outing alongside Germany’s crackerjack WDR Big Band. The tunes come from Sanchez’s previous albums New Life (2013), Three Times Three (2015) and The Meridian Suite (2015), but Mendoza enlivens and colorizes them with masterful voicings, catchy counter-lines and patient, emotional builds that occasionally recall Maria Schneider’s work. Playing his kit like an orchestra and writing for the orchestra like it was a giant drum kit, Sanchez develops asymmetrical, percussive ideas with fluid intelligence, ranging through hypnotic repetitions, punchy swing, dreamy musings and even the free-jazz episode from Meridian’s “Magnetic Currents” (merged here with the title track).
Joyous details abound, including the ear-tickling bass trombone/muted trumpet timbre on “Nooks And Crannies,” Paul Shigihara’s poignantly countrified electric guitar on “Nighttime Story,” Paul Heller’s soulful tenor saxophone on “New Life” and Sanchez’s painterly drum solo on the final cut, which twists attractively into tough, dissonant bitonality.
On other albums, Sanchez’s jazz-rock feel sometimes can edge toward tightness. Mendoza and the WDR Big Band keep him loose and bring out a flood of emotion.
Channels Of Energy: Disc 1: Minotauro; Nooks And Crannies; Nighttime Story; The Real McDaddy. (36:14) Disc 2: New Life; Grids And Patterns; Imaginary Lines; Channels Of Energy. (44:43)
Personnel: Johan Hörlen, Karolina Strassmayer, Pascal Bartoszak, alto saxophone; Olivier Peters, Paul Heller, tenor saxophone; Jens Neufang, baritone saxophone; Wim Both, Rob Bruynen, Andy Haderer, Ruud Breuls, John Marshall, Tom Walsh, Rüdiger Baldauf, Lorenzo Ludemann, Martin Reuthner, Jan Schneider, trumpet; Ludwig Nuss, Shannon Barnett, Andy Hunter, trombone; Mattis Cederberg, bass trombone; Omer Klein, piano; Paul Shigihara, guitar; John Goldsby, bass; Antonio Sanchez, drums; Vince Mendoza, arranger, conductor.