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Reviews Album cover: Juan Carlos Alom/ Design: Pepe Menéndez. Album cover: Juan Carlos Alom / Design: Pepe Menéndez.

Galaxy Animal / Héctor Quintana

There is covers and covers. There are pieces that are unpolished diamonds, that deserve to be rescued from the ineffable passage of time, and there are those who discover them, work on them and obtain a wonderful result. But there is covers that, more than musical versions, they are reckless acts; and there are also those who dare to reinvent classics. 

Thus, Héctor Quintana gave us galaxy animal (Colibrí, 2022) where, with his own color palette, he draws on the canvas of the old master Silvio. However, for those of us who have repeatedly enjoyed the guitarist's chords, this type of approach is not new. Let's remember that Benny Moré: a century later It was the album that launched him on stage as one of the great jazz players in the national territory; then his debut film appeared, fingerprint (Colibrí, 2017) that deserved a Cubadisco Award and where Quintana once again drew attention. Previously, in 2011, he received the Jojazz award.

galaxy animal, for its part, is a phonogram that brings together 10 songs, nine of them authored by Silvio Rodríguez and an unpublished composition by Quintana himself titled precisely Silvio —like someone who adds cherry to the cake and in case the tribute was not clear—. The artist is accompanied by Yandy Martínez (bass), Tony Rodríguez (piano), Esteban Puebla (keyboards), Oliver Valdés (drum), Fito Martínez on sound and production by Enrique Carballea. The phenomenon is too tempting: from author song to current jazz. rough way, the album is a postmodern guitar proposal, which highlights the cosmic nature of Silvio's work and Quintana's perception of it. 

When the once lanky singer-songwriter appeared on the scene, perhaps the universality that Cuban song would achieve in Silvio's voice was not thought of. From today, Quintana knows it; he even takes it further, and baptizes it as a "cosmic animal", re-appropriating the troubadour's verse. And it is precisely from this understanding that the author of the album, with his own prism, translates Silvio Rodríguez into modern jazz. If that's not a reason to listen to the record, I'll hang up my gloves. 

Quintana's speech is a harmonious display of two elements of the jazz tradition. First, at the level of arrangements, at times the influence of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea on keyboards is discovered; while in drums and basses I refer, once again, to the universal context with names like Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten and Esperanza Spalding. As a second element, the warm and tropical rhythm enters the scene, which we can enjoy in two bass solos that the entire work presents. Is not sufficient? I agree. The audacity of the young guitarist prevails. What has been achieved is a sample of universal jazz without losing the essence of its origins. 

When making a comparative overview of Quintana's previous work, it is evident that this phonogram represents a point of maturity for the author. Here, the guitarist, without breaking with his tradition, displays a more capable sense of musical apprehension by choosing from Silvio, although not the most recognized themes, but those with the greatest lyrical weight to supplant that poetic discourse with a language based on jazz instrumentation.

 If something can be claimed from the guitarist for all his work in galaxy animal It is precisely those areas where it leaves us wanting more. Those lapses where the subtle arrangements don't give way to his brilliant signature. (It is valid to point out that this task could not have transpired without the masterful balance of the musicians who participate in the production). 

The album also presents a logical sequence of hierarchy imposed by the complexity in crescendo which is observed across the 10 tracks. we fall into singing sand that —along with the cover— I declare the lightsaber of the album, since it gives us a true vision of what awaits us in the rest of the phonogram: without abandoning a balanced structure with beginning, middle and end, this song shows a considerable degree of difficulty. While the main course of the album is its fourth theme: Santiago de Chile. Right here, I stop at three aspects: the guitar solos committed to the spirit of the song, the obvious attacks of the bass and the rhythmic ostinatos that arouse that feeling of persecution left by one of the worst dictatorships in Latin America. Once again, the story that Silvio tells you and Quintana plays. 

In Women It is worth highlighting the dialogues that the instruments sustain and how they reinvent the message of the musical piece: the Cuban woman of the 21st century differs from that of the 1960s, and the jazz player reflects it. Finally, we must mention the true standard of the phonogram, La seagull, a theme that although in Silvio is melodically light with short intervals of singing, in Quintana it verges almost on the opposite. The jazz player, seeing the blank canvas, manages to insert in this piece a set of arrangements that enclose the entire mixture of the album in a wonderful genesis.    

At the end of the album we find a pure Quintana who manages to build Silvio for the same reasons as ballad of fools in a poetic closing. This last theme rests on a serene melody that subtly says goodbye to the listener, leaving him with a last pleasant sound image. At his own pace, the young jazz player tells us how he sees Silvio. Consequently, this ballad seems like a synthesis of the album, which is nothing more than a conversation with the artist Héctor Quintana about the singer-songwriter's work. 

Laura Lara Lobaina More posts

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  1. Enrique Carballea says:

    Laura… A producer never knows, at least in my work, where a phone call will go…When I called Héctor Quintana to tell Silvio Rodríguez about my idea of making an album in instrumental format and Héctor generously said yes… The trip to Casiopea began mounted on La Gaviota…Those two pieces together with Santiago de Chile were yes or yes… The rest that Hector tells, who is a musician of Universal stature. The title was given by the beloved photographer Juan Carlos Alom after listening to three songs in the studio…As Héctor says, The true Animal of the Galaxy is Cuban Music and its musicians…Happy and grateful…Excited with your writing and thanks once again to AM PM, the respectful Vanguard…Enrique Carballea Producer since the last century

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