Friday, June 3, 2022

Manel Fortià: “Despertar” (2022) CD Review

Manel Fortià is a talented and accomplished bass player and composer from Barcelona who lived in New York for a while. His new album, Despertar, features all original material, inspired by his time in New York City. It is performed by the trio of Manel Fortià on bass, Marco Mezquida on piano, and Raphaël Pannier on drums.

The album opens with “Dormir” (which translates as “To Sleep”). This track begins with an interesting, expressive lead on bass, supported by some equally interesting work on drums. It’s an unusual beginning, and then when Marco Mezquida comes in on piano, the piece takes on a different feel. There is an air of melancholy at that point, and, yes, a dreamlike quality. The work on piano seems to come from memory, somewhat at odds with the percussion, at least at first. Then as the percussion disappears, the piano solo takes on a certain beauty, the memory now surrounding us. This piece ends gently. That’s followed by “Circular,” this time all three musicians beginning together. There is a strong sense of motion as this piece begins, but a pleasant motion. Even if people are busy, they are not miserable in whatever it is that occupies their time in this realm. The piano has a full sound. And as the work on drums begins to grow, there is a wilder sense to the movement, the track taking on a lively and exciting vibe, while retaining an undeniable beauty. At a certain point toward the end, this piece feels like it is beginning to relax, yet the work on drums at that moment gets even looser. I love the way these musicians work against expectations to create something vibrant and exciting.

“Saudades” opens up into a mellower, contemplative space. It feels built on memories, pieces of a life, of a place. At first, it seems uncertain we can actually return to this place, that perhaps it is gone, or has changed so much that it might as well be. But as the piece grows, it is like the memory is so strong as to keep the place intact. It is a gorgeous and moving track. The trio then goes in a completely different direction with “Espiritual,” a soulful, bluesy number with a strong base, a strong sense of being connected to the here and now, to the earth, even while reaching up toward the heavens. This track features some excellent and seriously cool work on bass, and warm, passionate work on piano. Toward the end, things start to slow while Manel Fortià delivers a good lead on bass, a completely delicious moment. This is one of my personal favorites, and I love the way it ends softly, something you might not expect from the way it was building. Again, I love how these guys keep us completely engaged. That’s followed by “El Día Después,” which has a romantic feel, and features some beautiful playing. I am especially taken by the bass work.

The world of “Crescente” has a sense of bustle, of movement. It is another lively track, with a fast pace, yet with heart at its center. There is also a feeling of things being connected, rather than moving all at odds, and as this piece grows and progresses, it feels like things are coming together even more, with one heart, one pulse. That’s followed by “Aires De Libertad.” Manel Fortià begins this one on bass, kind of easing in, letting certain thoughts linger. This track then has beautiful moments where the music swells, and you just want to be swept up in its passion and carried to some better place. I am especially fond of Marco Mezquida’s work on piano here. Then “Simple” begins with some lively, playful work on piano. This too has a fast pace, and is delightful, with a friendly, elated vibe in its opening section. The lead on bass then takes the track in a different direction, and things soon get exciting, the piece growing and building. It then relaxes just before the end, and has kind of a sweet, adorable conclusion. The album wraps up with its title track, “Despertar” (the title translates as “to wake”), which begins with some work on bass. There is an introspective sense to this one at first, and yet a power. Then nearly halfway through, there is a bass solo, which alters the track’s path. The work on piano following that is striking, and the power of this piece builds again.

CD Track List

  1. Dormir
  2. Circular
  3. Saudades
  4. Espiritual
  5. El Día Después
  6. Crescente
  7. Aires De Libertad
  8. Simple
  9. Despertar

Despertar was released on May 12, 2022.

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