By Bob Doerschuk | Published November 2018
Facing Dragons is a promise that tomorrow’s jazz is in good hands. Most of the players on this session are quite young; the eldest, Marcus Strickland, hasn’t hit 40. Yet each one plays at a peak of musicianship that most could spend their entire lives trying to achieve.
Facing Dragons involves preternatural maturity, an uncanny sense of the moment and, as Sands once again proves, an exquisite understanding of writing material that speaks on its own and equally feeds the fires of improvisation. But there’s more than that. Taken one track at a time, Facing Dragons takes us back to an early Herbie Hancock aesthetic on the delicate, if enigmatically titled, “Frankenstein.” Right after that, we hear Caio Afiune playing a slow figure way down on the guitar neck on “Her Song.” The next track, “Samba De Vela,” begins at the same tempo, in the same key, with a similar four-bar motif. Much more can be said about Facing Dragons, all of it good (though Sands’ take on “Yesterday” is tough to get into). But the last track, “Rhodes To Meditation,” must be acknowledged—a solo piece on Fender Rhodes, glistening in reverb and reminiscent of Brian Eno. End your journey here, breathe deep and you’re home.
Facing Dragons: Rebel Music; Fight For Freedom; Yesterday; Sangueo Soul; Sunday Mornings; Frankenstein; Her Song; Samba De Vela; Rhodes To Meditation. (58:30)
Personnel: Christian Sands, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; Jerome Jennings, drums; Marcus Strickland, saxophone (2, 6); Keyon Harrold, trumpet (2, 6); Caio Afiune, guitar (2, 4, 5, 7, 8); Cristian Rivera (4, 5, 8), Roberto Quintero (4), percussion.