Marta Sanchez’s creative voice is strikingly original – circling rhythms, elaborate forms and crisscrossing counterpoint distinguishes her sonic signature on the crowded New York contemporary music scene. Following three critically acclaimed quintet releases, the Madrid-born pianist-composer presents SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) on Whirlwind Recordings, an album driven by emotional candor and boundary-pushing compositions. A talented cast realizes her knotty, technical writing – frontline partners Alex Lore and Roman Filiu meet Sanchez, Rashaan Carter, and Allan Mednard on backline duties.
SAAM riffs on the Smithsonian American Art Museum, on an album that’s an exhibition of Sanchez’s life in musical form: “It’s made up of all the elements of society from both countries [Spain and America] that impact my life and make me who I am.” Matters internal and external are realized in musical expositions of complex feelings. The pieces took shape in lockdown, as Sanchez exchanged fortnightly composition tasks with a pen-pal. “Those compositions express all the phases I was going through at that time. I was reflecting super deeply on what’s important, and how to achieve a meaningful life.”
Most of the album draws on those precisely realized emotions. The coloristic, texturally driven opener ‘The Unconquerable Areas’ describes parts of herself “that are still vulnerable. These weak parts of myself; even though I’ve been dealing with them for a long time, they’re still there.” Similarly reflective is ‘Dear Worthiness’, a “sad ballad that reflects on my self-worth” – it features lithely beautiful melodies, but melancholy is never far away. ‘SAAM’ cuts through that smoothness, in a jagged, Schoenberg-inspired outburst full of intense feelings and dense clusters, built around an essential pain.
A different form of pain features in ‘The Eternal Stillness’ – mournful sighs and cries emanate from the saxophones, as layered textures shift underneath. Then something very different comes along – ‘Marivi’, featuring Ambrose Akinmusire and Camila Meza, offers a warm tribute to Sanchez’s mother, who died during the lockdown. “I tell her things I could never tell her,” says Sanchez of the lyrics. “I loved my mum but it was really hard to tell her the deep things.”
‘If You Could Create It’ strikes a lighter tone, with cascading torrents of tenor sax sound, before ‘The Hard Balance’ offers reflection, both musically and personally – the track is finely balanced on an intricate polyrhythm, that reflects the difficulties of maintaining a work-life balance. ‘December 11th’ is the day Sanchez’s mother died, a personal tribute featuring an extended, heartfelt piano solo. The album concludes with ‘When Dreaming is Only’, the most complex tune on the album; insistent piano rhythms and dueling saxophones give way to a banded texture that’s bustling, brimming with energy. “Sometimes I just take the vibe, compose the atmosphere, and sometimes I focus on something super specific.” Sanchez’s ability to tap into emotional expression through detailed instrumental music is without parallel – this collage of moods and feelings is testament to that.
RELEASE DATE: February 25th, 2022