Friday, August 25, 2017

Oscar Feldman: “Gol” (2017) CD Review

The first time I popped in “Gol,” the new album by saxophonist Oscar Feldman, my intention was for it to be background music while I unwound after a long and tiring day at work. But four or five minutes into the first track, that tremendous piano part by Leo Genovese commanded my attention. Then of course I began listening more closely to Oscar Feldman’s sax part as well, and I was hooked. I set aside the other things I’d planned to do around my apartment, and sat down and listened. And what a joy it was to do so. Gol is a vibrant album, an album of celebration, of community. It features Oscar Feldman on alto and soprano saxophone, Antonio Sanchez (of Pat Metheny Group) on drums, John Benitez on bass, and Leo Genovese on piano and keyboards, as well guest Guillermo Klein on one track.

That first track is a cover of Duke Ellington’s “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart,” and it features some wonderful playing by the entire group, and goes in some delightful directions. It’s followed by “La Canción Que Falta,” which was written by Guillermo Klein, who provides vocals and plays keys on this track. The vocals have something of an intimate sound, which is great, but for me the saxophone is the more expressive voice. Oscar’s playing is beautiful. Then three and a half minutes in, the tune changes its feel, and the piano takes over as lead instrument. There is something playful and delightful here, and yet the tune does not lose any of its beauty, but rather rises to a different level of joy. Then just as it’s ending, this song goes in another direction. This album features a second Guillermo Klein composition, “N.N,” which John Benitez starts off on bass. This track has a great rhythm, and features some rousing playing by Oscar Feldman and more fantastic drumming by Antonio Sanchez.

“Viva Belgrano,” the album’s only composition by Oscar Feldman, begins with the sound of a sports announcer (that’s Matias Barzola). Belgrano is a soccer team of Cordoba, where Feldman grew up, and this tune celebrates an important goal in that club’s history (making it sort of the album’s title track). As the announcer fades out, the tune begins, the drums leading into it. This too has some interesting changes and features more wonderful work on both keys and saxophone. And check out that bass line. But perhaps my favorite section is when Antonio Sanchez on drums take over, with Leo Genovese holding down the groove on keys, the drums acting as lead instrument. This track has an exciting feel throughout, but that section, for me, really is the highlight. And it is during that section that Matias Barzola comes back in, clearly thrilled about a soccer goal. It is interesting how integral the announcer feels to the tune, how well the whole thing works.

The music then takes a turn to something prettier, more thoughtful, with a relaxed rendition of “Murmullo.” As the song grows, Oscar Feldman’s playing becomes more powerful. And then suddenly it leads to a cool lead on bass by John Benitez. Oscar Feldman covers Beck’s “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” the bass at first doing what would be the vocal line, and later the saxophone taking over that line and stretching it further. Four and a half minutes in, the song gets more interesting for me, going into territory not explored in Beck’s original. At moments, it feels like anything could happen – the tune could explode, it could ease us gently back into a pop realm. As it ends, it drifts off into a strange electronic realm, leaving us there. Well, not for long. The next track, “Is That So,” the Duke Pearson composition, begins with a more standard groove and feel, sticking closely with the original. But it’s not long before it gets interesting, and there are short drum solos and bass leads. The CD then concludes with a Beatles number, a lively, fun, excellent rendition of “I Feel Fine.”

CD Track List
  1. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
  2. La Canción Que Falta
  3. Viva Belgrano
  4. Murmullo
  5. N.N.
  6. Nobody’s Fault But My Own
  7. Is That So?
  8. I Feel Fine
Gol was released on August 4, 2017 through ZOHO Music.

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