Sep 19 2015
There’s an anthemic quality to Gran Coral, of embraceable songs that could thrive in the mainstream even while expressing the peculiarities and personality traits that target the ears of listeners who crave something a little different. On his debut, drummer Carlos Falanga and his quartet carry this out by leading with potent melodies, the kind that sound familiar from the very first moment, and a series of inviting cadences that make it so simple and fun to follow right along.
Opening track “Tilos” is immediate evidence of this approach, possessing an infectious, playful bounce for a tempo and a melody that serves as both grand statement and launching pad for further exploration. Title-track “Gran Coral” stays that course, as the quartet shifts down a gear and slips into an easy gait that is more representative of this body of work.
The way that Marco Mezquida switches between piano and organ is particularly appealing. When piano, it’s a precise beauty cut from stone and when organ, it’s a hazy beauty shaped from clay. In both instances, he relays the melody with a care and attention that speaks directly to the music’s immense charm.
On “Lombardo,” Mezquida’s piano turns the melody into an elastic object and Falanga’s drums prod the pianist on further by retrofitting the tempo to lock in to a framework that possesses an irresistible looseness, as if it the song might shake loose from its emerging form and become something else dramatically different. “Blonde” does this, too, and adds a bit of twang to the mix, giving the beaming melody a wry smile.
It’s refreshing how Jordi Matas articulates the melody with short, crisp bits of dialog, shaping notes with his electric guitar as a series of stand-alone sounds that just so happen to string together and form a catchy little melody. It occurs too often on too many recordings that the electric guitar is unleashed and then it becomes no longer about the melody itself but the intensity generated by eclipsing it. Matas never lets that scenario play out on Gran Coral, and the album is much stronger for that decision.
Even on “Azul,” the sole album track that really shakes things up, the display of uninhibited expressiveness on electric guitar remains on the same page as the rest of the quartet on a song that is all about cool blues.
“59” is especially arresting in the way the quartet keeps building the song up by layering variations of the same melodic fragment, and giving the ear something familiar to hold onto while anticipating the slight changes the next expression will bring. This, added to the buoyant tempo that maintains a casual ease even while moving at a brisk pace makes the tune something bordering on addictive. “Memory of Water” takes a similar approach to layering, but it’s the harmonic washes that make it so compelling, and instead of addictive properties, it is far more likely to enchant.
On “Snus,” bassist Jaume Llombart makes his presence felt by answering the falling rain of Matas’s guitar with big splashes through the puddles. They both follow the melody’s path, taking turns with organ as to whom grabs the role of recitation while the other writes the next chapter of the melody’s story.
The endearingly casual tempo and alluring, catchy melody of “Grown Garden” finishes the album off with the same qualities that served it so well throughout. The concluding song adds a bit of a melancholy tone, providing a nice touch of dark clouds to these bright and sunny songs.
Just a real likable album, and for a debut, a very strong statement of promise for what’s to come.
Your album personnel: Carlos Falanga (drums), Jordi Matas (guitar), Marco Mezquida (piano, organ) and Jaume Llombart (electric bass).
Released on Underpool Music.
Listen to more of this album at Underpool’s Bandcamp page.
Jazz from the Barcelona, Spain scene.