WITH HIS "VIDA" CD, LUIS MUNOZ WON HIS FIRST ACAM AWARD AS " JAZZ COMPOSER/PRODUCER OF THE YEAR" IN 2006.
"It is, simply put, one of the best Latin jazz ventures of the year...Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Vida is a vital testimony to Luis Muñoz's artistic genius. Indispensable! **** (4 stars).
Born and raised in San José, Costa Rica, Luis Muñoz experienced music as the everyday pursuit of his father's family (18 siblings, each a musician), who gathered every Sunday to play together. Muñoz played in rock bands as a youth, studied music and architecture at the University of Costa Rica, then moved north to earn a degree in composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Based there ever since, working as a composer, arranger percussionist and keyboardist, he draws on a stable of able studio players and a diverse instrumental array on Vida, his third U.S. release. Muñoz brings an orchestral sensibility to the studio, informed by a broad interest in Latin American folk and popular genres, European classical strains (he cites Bach, Chopin, Ravel and Stravinsky as prime influences), and jazz, both Afro-Latin and North American.
Vida is the latest offering from Costa Rican percussionist and composer Luis Muñoz. The music within is lush and inviting, gliding gracefully over an almost constantly moving stream of bubbling percussion. Throughout, Muñoz impresses as much with his arrangements and orchestrations as he does with his instrumental prowess and compositions.
With a tight, multi-part construction, the opening "Mad Bop recalls late period Weather Report, especially when Randy Tico's fretless bass cuts through the mix. "Seveneves boasts some novel instrumentation, opening with lilting phrases from Bill Flores' pedal steel guitar before winding its way to some near Middle Eastern-sounding violin work from Charlie Bisharat. It's a bold musical transition that never seems anything but logical when you are listening to it. Elsewhere, "Between Birth And Dying features a more stripped-down ensemble in which piano, violin, cello, and accordion seem to debate some weighty issues. The violin and cello have more gravitas, but the wit of the accordion renders it the final word.
There is a deep and feverish imagination at work throughout Vida, revealing itself in unexpected instrumentation and twisting arrangements that blur whatever genre DNA runs through the compositions. It should be added with emphasis that the album is a lot of fun, to a certain degree because you have no idea what is coming next.
Track Listing: Mad Bop; Journey Of Saint Augustine; Seveneves; Between Birth And Dying; Carmesi; Myth And Resurrection; Pasion; Mercedes En Reposo; Palito; Los Ojos De La Ausencia
As adept as Luis Muñoz is at various percussion instruments, keyboards and piano included, the versatility and sensibility of his writing are also showcased on Vida. He braids various Latin American styles to form an attractive jazzy Bo Derek-like musical hairdo of sorts that travels well in various contexts. Whether it be as background music at home or work, as radio features, driving music, or even for partying with abandon, this compact disc has various delightful alternatives to please even the most exigent taste.
"Journey of Saint Augustine does convey a characteristic sense of movement, with an Argentinean nostalgic air well served by its instrumentation, which includes both accordion and harmonica, as well as acoustic guitar. This composition, however, does not rely on the sensuality rightly associated with tango—for that you could attend to "Between Birth and Dying. The emotive core of "Journey of Saint Augustine is, nonetheless, just as dramatic and "saintly as any tango-inspired piece. Simple, effective and pleasantly profound, which, expectedly, could subsume the rest of the music from this release.
"Myth and Resurrection is a vivid and tight Afro-Cuban 6/8 percussive buildup highlighted by engaging trumpet and reed riffs that anchor the ever-evolving gaseous mysterious elements, present in the reed soloing, and the atmospheric context, brought about by the use of synthesizers and a pedal steel guitar. "Mad Bop, where Muñoz solos on timbales, is a bebop Afro-Cuban guaguancó with smartly conceived bridges and changes, as well as brief but superb solos. Much the same can be said about "Palito.
A vocal version of "Pasión, which Muñoz had already rendered instrumentally, with lyrics from fellow Centro American poet Rómulo Castro, titivates this recording. Lead vocalist Téka Penteriche is just too much while interpreting its Brazilian mellowness.
Venezuelan joropo lies behind "Mercedes in reposo, which, once again on this recording—ethnicity of the attending genres notwithstanding—argues for the depth of simple beauty for its own musical sake. It would bring the house down if interpreted live in the Sabana Grande area or Caricuao quarter of Caracas!
This is strong Latino bebop nailed down by composer Luis Munoz's forceful original music & his Latin culture. A lot of influences pervade Munoz's project, i.e. 'Miles' "Bird' et al. Luis writes with a rhythmic subtlety, exacting his many timbres of sound-ideas through his sidemen.......Producing a vital sense of musical poignancy .........Yet.....This disc swings as well! This is a composer who experiments with free technical innovation & adventurous musical patterns.......Showing the incredible panoply of original music & viable composers, now residing in this wondrous country of ours. I have to add too, that Luis Munoz takes us to the outer limits of his wonderful musical imagination with this, his new CD project, 'Vida.'
Luis Munoz is a brilliant composer/arranger/percussionist born in Costa Rica in 1953 and a resident of Santa Barbara, California for the past 30 years. Vida, recorded in Santa Barbara in 2003, is simply one of the most tantalizing, brilliant and enjoyable discs of the year.
Costa Rican percussionist/keyboardist Luis Munoz recorded this wonderful outing in Santa Barbara, Ca., along with musicians who perform in quartet, sextet, and larger ensemble jamborees. Not being intimately familiar with this artist, it becomes easily detectable that his arranging, composing, and technical abilities are on par with the very best within various Latin-jazz frameworks. And while Munoz treads familiar territory, his uncanny penchant for tossing in odd-metered diversions and the use of strings and synths, cast a multidimensional element into the entire game plan. For instance, the piece titled "Seveneves," could easily become a modern day classic - not solely within the Latin-jazz scheme of things, we might add. Featuring a festive, Brazilian type groove beneath a striking melody, Munoz’ decision to incorporate a pedal steel guitarist and violinist parleys a contrasting sequence of events. It’s one of those pieces that warrant repeated spins, as the ensemble injects a classical motif during the bridge, to counterbalance the gorgeous melody of the primary theme. Ultimately, Munoz’ music is constructed upon mood-evoking choruses, spanning Desi Arnaz-like Mambos to cool, breezy sambas coinciding with a potpourri of skillfully executed twists and turns. Overall, this outing should appeal to the mainstreamers and modernists. To that end, it would be a crime, if this production should dwell in obscurity. (Feverishly recommended.... )