Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre

Love The Moment

One endearing thing about pianist Oscar Hernandez is his generosity. The bandleader grants a remarkable amount of space to members of Alma Libre on Love The Moment, and the ensemble enthusiastically welcomes the opportunities.

Justo Almario’s flute is a wondrous thing of beauty and warmth on the title track, its silvery tone shifting from the lower to higher reaches of the instrument. Almario’s fluency and mastery also prevails on “Mi Cancion Es Para Ti.” Memorable, too, is his saxophone on “Otro Nivel,” Almario volleying spitfire notes with trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos’ spikey sprints. On “Latino Jazz,” percussionist Christian Moraga and drummer Jimmy Branly put the heat to the skins, and the only thing capable of matching their intense beat is Hernandez’s two-fisted octave runs. While the bandleader is democratic about the allotment of time and space, he knows when to step in and apply an infectious dance-like tempo: “Mi Cancion Es Para Ti” is ample proof. Hernandez smartly has set aside specific tunes to feature individual performers and instruments, but the dynamic swing when they all come together on “Alternate Roots” epitomizes the album’s ensemble genius.