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Music Sin Fronteras Review

Review of an exceptional live recording by an exceptional jazz group

Live, by the Agua Dulce Ensamble  

I recently learned that the Guadalajara jazz group Agua Dulce Ensamble will be playing here in Ajijic with a friend of mine, Eleazar Soto, joining them on the sax. They have just released a new EP, Live,  recorded live on the Solo Jazz TV show in Guadalajara with pianist Cuervo Glez. Their 2023 album Unstandard is on my jazz playlist, so I am familiar with them. Their 2021 album Musica Tranquilo has just been uploaded to Spotify, so there is a virtual cornucopia of Agua Dulce Ensamble music available to stream.

I have been listening to Live all day in both foreground and background. It works either way, but foreground – with headphones, leaning back in your chair is what it deserves.  

The core group – Chen Quintero on guitar, Juan Manuel Ayala on bass, Guillermo Nunez on drums are all precision players. Each note is right, the kind of right that only appears when you are so good you can forget what you are doing and just do it. The result is pure tranquility, even when the energy flows.

The EP opens with “Footprints”, colored but not led, by Quintero’s guitar which produces notes that are as clear as the deep water of Lake Tahoe and just as mysteriously beautiful. They move through the song like footprints – exquisitely delineated, but not sharp, impressions of emotions transmitted though guitar strings. As Quintero builds structure with the guitar notes,  Cuervo Glez  moves in with the piano, almost like the lead bird in a migrating v-formation flock. He propels his instrument with a magic hand, weaving in and out, now with energy, now with softness, but always forward. There are breaks for the guitar, especially when Quintero plays the low note thick strings.  The rhythm section – Juan Manuel Ayala on bass and Guillermo Nunez on drums – provide a beat structure that is always there, but moves the song along without you knowing it.

“Impressions” leaps out with repeating announcement theme on the guitar and then moves into its own mainstream, like railroad tracks made of bass notes and piano explorations. Some parts of the song sound familiar and some are wholly from another, gentle, dimension. As Glez moves up and down his keyboard, the group structures a theme behind him much like an abstract painting of a storm, scaffolding the piano with their own notes.

“Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers” , the Steve Kuhn song recorded in 1972 by Monica Zetterlund , follows in a more down tempo journey with the guitar and the piano blending closely before an occasional divergence. The energy level goes up as the song moves along, and then drops back down to tranquility with the guitar practically whispering in your ear before resuming the journey.

“Nardis” starts out with a light snare accent and then strides ahead with the guitar and piano alternating and then blending, always returning to the opening theme. A very nice bit of nostalgia within the song before it moves into up tempo drum and bass and down tempo piano and guitar. The wrap up song, “Incertidumbre” starts off like a guitar fairy tale and then takes off like a train, but always staying below a threshold of energy – never too intense, but always energetic. It manages to transmit that energy while staying tranquil. Quite a feat.

The entire EP is a jewel: the music is innovative and exquisite; the recording is excellent especially for a live performance. If you are a jazz buff, put this on your playlist. And then put on your headphones I am looking forward to their concert this Sunday at La Cochera Cultural in Ajijic. “Live” can be streamed on Spotify, Bandcamp. Videos on YouTube.    

Patrick O’Heffernan



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (470 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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