Miguel de Armas — What's to Come
((Not on label) no#, 2018, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-06-05
Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas makes his album debut under his own name with What’s to Come, a collection of ten varied tunes that presents his nimble keyboard work with a backing of bass and percussion, plus varying other instruments on the different tracks. In spite of the billing as a quartet, de Armas and drummer / percussionist Michel Madrano are the only musicians to appear on all the tracks. They are joined by bassist Marc Decho on most tracks, though Roberto Riverón and Mathieu Sénéchal handle the low end at times. Two different guitarists (Elmer Ferrer and Galen Weston) shine one one track each; two percussionists (Arien Villegas and Carlitos Medrano) fill out the rhythm on most tracks; and other guests include Alexis Baró (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jane Burnett (soprano sax), and Alexandre Laborde (accordion). Piano forms the backbone of all the pieces, but de Armas does venture into different synth sounds at times, providing a welcome change of pace. Stylistically, he presents an integrated blend of latin and jazz, sliding the balance between the two poles from side to side on different tracks. His playing is lyrical and melodic, and the lead lines are catchy without sounding cliché. The percussion is what really makes the music, however, presenting infectious grooves on every track, sometimes slow and sensuous, sometimes energetic and bouncy. The two guitar spotlights are both excellent, with Ferrer’s legato playing bringing Allan Holdsworth to mind on “A Song for My Little Son,” and when combined with the percussion, resembling Holdsworth’s short stint in Gong. Weston’s turn on “His Bass and Him” has a little more edge to it, though the track focuses on other instruments more, leaving him only a short solo. My favorite track is “Freddie’s Drink,” which closes out the album on a high-energy note, with a busy unison bass line on piano and electric bass that jumps out of the gate and leads into a lush melodic line. Sénéchal gets the bass solo on this one, with a flashy blues-inflected section backed by congas and sparse chords from piano and synth. After a percussion break, a coda features an echoey synth lead that finishes the piece nicely. What’s to Come is a fun album to listen to, with the percussion especially sounding crystal clear in the mix, and with no tracks over six minutes in length, there’s no time wasted on over-indulgent soloing.
Related artist(s): Miguel de Armas
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