By James Hale | Published March 2020
The high concept that drives Puertos: Music From International Waters has no right to work. Dedicating each song to a different port seems like a hoaky idea lifted straight out of the era of stereo demonstration LPs. But what moves Puertos beyond a simple pastiche is that Emilio Solla has invested heavily in each of the pieces here. It’s the difference between seeing each city from the deck of a ship and exploring the back alleys of each place.
The thread running through the various ports is how imperialist conquests, the slave trade and immigration mixed with native traditions to create distinctive-yet-linked music in cities ranging from Cadiz to Buenos Aires and New York. Certain instruments, like Julien Labro’s bandoneon, tie diverse elements together, drawing lines back to Europe, while on “Four For Miles,” Solla uses the trumpet section to trace Miles Davis’ evolution within the New York jazz scene through styles and decades. Among other highlights here is the way a chamber tango ensemble of bandoneon, trumpet and trombone emerges from the big band on “La Novena.” But best of all is the way Solla tells New Orleans’ story—shifting from a jarring introduction that expresses the chaotic uncertainty of Congo Square to narrative statements by Noah Bless’ trombone, and then a powerful combination of Edmar Castañeda’s harp and Pablo Aslan’s bass.
Puertos: Music From International Waters: Sol La, Al Sol; Llegará, Llegará, Llegará; Chacafrik; La Novena; Four For Miles; Allegrón; Andan Luces; Buenos Aires Blues. (75:56)
Personnel: Emilio Solla, Arturo O’Farrill, piano (2); Alex Norris, Jim Seeley, Brad Mason, Jonathan Powell, trumpet, flugelhorn; Noah Bless, Mike Fahie, Eric Miller, trombone; James Rodgers, bass trombone; Alejandro Aviles, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, piccolo, flute; John Ellis, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Todd Bashore, alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Tim Armacost, tenor saxophone, alto flute, clarinet; Julien Labro, bandoneon, accordina; Edmar Castañeda (6), harp; Pablo Aslan, bass; Ferenc Nemeth, drums; Samuel Torres (1), Arturo Prendez (2), Franco Pinna (6), percussion.