Juan Andrés Ospina enriches music in incalculable ways. First there is his attractive way with melody, which he enriches with the kind of flirtatious rhythm that makes these melodies impossible to resist falling in love with. Then there is sense of “the delicious”, which, to one’s mind, is that certain something that makes some musicians like “master chefs” who can impart an almost tactile sense to musical harmony; something that makes one not only “feel” their music, but almost “taste” its hidden delights. And because of these abilities he is able to turn even tired standards into something magical and wholly new as in “Like Someone in Love”.
And so, while his marvelous big band record Tramontana may have just six charts, one savours each of them, willing them to go on and on, which they seem to do – at least for almost one memorable hour. The pianist, composer and prodigiously-gifted orchestrator calls both Bogotá, Colombia and New York home. He has come to prominence recently with Banda Magda, a sensational new ensemble founded BY Magda Giannikou, that other prodigy who combines music and theatre in a unique and seamless art. But Mr Ospina has also popped up in other places – such as in the music of another magnificent musician, Sofia Ribeiro.
Both musicians also perform on Tramontana along with twenty-six other musicians from New York’s global village dipping into a breathtaking colour palette to present this extraordinary music. All but two of the charts have been composed by Mr Ospina, but his personality is indelibly stamped on all six of them. The introduction that he has written for Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love” is quite remarkable. It is made up of a beautiful vamp of half a dozen or so chords that lay the groundwork for the melody, which Mr Ospina recalls in elongated notes redolent of gleaming brass and woodwinds that seem to build up into a crescendo, the tightly-wound-up tension of which is spectacularly released a couple of choruses in for Uri Gurvich’s monumental alto saxophone solo.
As with Van Heusen so much more with his own music: Mr Ospina shows that he is unafraid to leap off the edge when it comes to orchestration. He pulls out the dampers, so to speak, in song after song, letting trombones lead the ensemble and almost edge out the traditional trumpets and saxophones, even as it is those very instruments to which he entrusts the solo breaks. Mike Fahie’s own trombone solo on “102 Fahrenheit” is death-defying and sees Mr Fahie plunge into what appears to be a bottomless pit in order to seek out the most memorable notes for his solo. Elsewhere on “Tramontana”, for instance, Carolina Calvache’s piano solo makes the black dots leap off the page, as does Justin Flynn’s on tenor saxophone; and Jonathan Powell’s and Marcelo Woloski’s (percussion) on “102 Fahrenheit”.
Also notable are Andrés Rotmistrovsky’s (bass solo) on “Todavía No”, which also features a mighty one by Paquito D’Rivera on alto saxophone, Nadav Remez’s gentle guitar plays beautifully off Magda Giannikou’s melodically wheezing accordion before changing hands with Dan Pugach’s drums. However, the most memorable moment by far comes – not at all surprisingly – from the presence of the power and ululating vocalastics of the Colombian Lucia Pulido. Announcing her intent with a mighty melodic shout, Miss Pulido melds her haunting voice into the hissing percussion before drawing the mighty big band into her melancholy song “Ver llover”. This dancing, soaring joropo is by far the highest point of this spectacular recording by Mr Ospina.
Track list – 1: Tramontana; 2: Todavía No; 3: 102 Fahrenheit; 4: Like Someone in Love; 5: Recuerdos de un reloj de pared; 6: Ver llover
Personnel – Sam Hoyt: trumpet; Jonathan Powell: trumpet (solo 3); Bryan Davis: trumpet; Guido Gonzalez: trumpet; Michael Fahie: trombone (solo 3); Matt McDonald: trombone; Malec Heermans: trombone; James Rogers: bass trombone; Hadar Noiberg: flute; Alex Terrier: soprano saxophone (solo 6) and alto saxophone; Uri Gurvich: alto saxophone (solo 4) and flute; Linus Wyrsch: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Justin Flynn: tenor saxophone (solo 1) and clarinet; Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; Carolina Calvache: piano (1, 3, 4, 5 solo 1); Nicolás Ospina: piano (6); Juan Andrés Ospina: piano (solo 2); Nadav Remez: guitar (solo 5); Andrés Rotmistrovsky: electric bass (solo 2); Marcelo Woloski: percussion (solo 3); Petros Klampanis: contrabass (5); Franco Pinna: drums (2, 6); Ronen Itzik: drums (1, 3); Dan Pugach: drums (4, 5, solo 5); Magda Giannikou: accordion (5); Sofia Ribeiro: vocals (1); Lucia Pulido: vocals (6); Special Guest – Paquito D’Rivera: soprano saxophone (solo 2)
Released – 2018
Label – Independent