Diego Pinera

Odd Wisdom

Uruguayan drummer Diego Pinera has followed an accretive path, studying music in the States, Cuba and Germany, the country he’s called home since 2003. Now based in Berlin, Pinera has compounded his mastery of jazz and Latin-American music with Eastern European traditions through his work with performers from Greece and Bulgaria. And for his latest album, he visited New York to work with a band that brings a dazzling cogency to his multicultural post-bop vision.

Saxophonist Donny McCaslin has favored an airless fusion sound since he worked with David Bowie on the singer’s final album, Blackstar, in 2016, but here his stunning lyrical imagination sparkles. Guitarist Ben Monder also excels, especially on “Clave Tune,” where he nails the corkscrewing unison melody, but also adds lovely bossa nova-like comping and coloristic washes against the theme’s Afro-Cuban groove.

The real credit, though, belongs to the leader, who composed everything here apart from “Blue Monk.” Pinera is a seriously skilled drummer (his solo on “Mi Cosmos” is a jaw-dropper); his writing is complex; and the band consistently brings a breezy quality to the performances, never drawing attention to the difficulty of the material. On the ballad “Conversation With Myself,” the leader gamely takes a backseat, coaxing splendid improvisations from McCaslin and Monder. “Domingo” pivots between a skittering unison melody and slinky folk-flavored refrain, and on “Space,” Pinera contributes endearing vocals that convey a Latin pop fluency. The drummer’s previous efforts have been solid, but his personality has never emerged so strongly before.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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