Fans of Pat Metheny should be familiar with Antonio Sanchez. The drummer has been a mainstay of Metheny's groups for the past five years, and has also recorded with Michael Brecker and Danilo Perez. His bona fides go on, having attended the Berklee School of Music and sitting in the drummer's chair of the Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra. Last year, he recorded his debut album as a leader, Migration. The album is an exciting debut from a seasoned veteran (at age 36, Sanchez's career had seen some incredible highs up to that point).
Aside from the opening and closing tracks (which feature special guests Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, respectively), Sanchez presents a quartet with the interesting front line of tenor saxophonists David Sanchez (no relation) and Chris Potter. Bassist Scott Colley rounds out the group. Following Corea's "One for Antonio," the quartet portion of the album kicks off with "Did You Get It?," an intriguing melody with densely harmonized lines by Potter and Sanchez on tenors. It is the first of four originals by Antonio Sanchez, and I was immediately impressed by the quality of his compositions. Like Tony Williams, an obvious influence, Sanchez takes writing very seriously, and reveals a harmonic sophistication not often associated with drummers (you can read more about his compositional techniques in this All About Jazz interview).
Following a pair of solos by David Sanchez and Potter (whom I, unfortunately, cannot tell apart - note to Amazon.com: please include liner notes with your mp3 downloads!) as well as a solo by Colley, Sanchez gives a (too) brief solo which combines a sense of polyrhythm reminiscent of Tony Williams with the melodic instincts of Max Roach. I was left wanting more, unfortunately (a drummer can and should give himself more than eight bars on his own record).
"Challenge Within" is the highlight of the disc, another Sanchez composition which evokes the powerful frontline of the 1960s Blue Note Sound with a driving Latin-tinged beat. It is stunning to hear a drummer present such a provocative melody on his debut (even accounting for the fact that he was an old-by-jazz-standards 36 when the album was released). Potter (I think) opens up the solo section with a melodic masterpiece as one familiar with his work would expect. After a statement from David Sanchez and a restatement of the melody, Antonio Sanchez gives an extended solo over Colley's bass acompaniement. What is nice about Sanchez's playing here and elsewhere on the album is that he eschews the pyrotechnics one might expect on a drummer's debut for a sublty melodic statement that would have made Max Roach proud.
Other points of interest on the album include Sanchez's haunting original, "Ballade," his reworking of the Joe Henderson classic "Inner Urge," and (I think) David Sanchez's solo on "Greedy Silence," in which he and Antonio channel Elvin and Trane in a frenetic exchange of ideas. Indeed, the quartet selections are so good that the duet with Metheny and trio with Colley and Corea could have been left off the album entirely, and I would still be satisfied. As it is, the bookending tracks are icing on the cake. Sanchez has given a resoundingly strong opening statement, and I excitedly await the next chapter.
Track Listing: One for Antonio; Did You Get It; Arena (Sand); Challenge Within; Ballade; Greedy Silence; Inner Urge; Solar
Personnel: Sanchez, drums; Chris Potter, David Sanchez, saxophone; Scott Colley, bass; Chick Corea, piano (on One for Antonio); Pat Metheny, guitar (on Arena (Sand) and Solar)