The Choice is the sophomore release of guitarist Diego Barber, following up the wondrous debut Calima, arguably the best album of 2009. Infusing his classical guitar into a jazz setting, he presents a sound both terribly refreshing and quite unlike anything else on the scene.
Inspired by and written during a trip across West Africa, Barber has created a series of musical vignettes of small moments in a vast big sky country. The opening track “Annie” is simply Barber’s unhurried guitar lines backed by the gentle patter of drums and wash of cymbals, an introspective moment further enhanced when Weidenmueller makes an entrance by bowing his bass, creating an effect like a lullaby whose intent is not to aid the listener to sleep, but to intrigue into wakefulness.
“Annie” leads into the second track “Contraste” without a note of silence. Barber’s guitar becomes more insistent. Mark Turner enters with a series of simple and unfussy sax lines that glide across the tune like tumbleweed across desert sand. And then the wind picks up… Barber’s intensity on strings grows, Turner’s sax rises in temperature, Grenadier’s bass lifts up to the higher registers, and Hoenig’s drum work could be trailing right behind or maybe it’s really pushing the whole thing along.
The pace continues to increase as the album progresses. This was an equation that worked well for Barber on Calima, and it continues to reap rewards on The Choice. Both albums began with openings that were serene but not sleepy, not unlike those mornings when a person wakes up to the sun, refreshed, not a bit drowsy, and just very there In The Moment. Barber’s guitar emanates that In The Moment feel, and it’s why even during frenetic tunes on the album like “Jose’s House”, it still feels like a calm album.
The heart of the tempo is at the heart of the album, and just as the The Choice opens with a languid atmospheric vibe, so it also ends. The wind down begins with “Pittaluga” (arguably the strongest track on the album), as Barber slowly takes his foot off the gas pedal.
The album ends with a beautiful solo guitar sonata, closing things out on the same notes of serenity and solitude that the album began.
Over an hour and ten minutes of modern jazz guitar w/classical influences. Released on the Sunnyside Records label. Originally from the Canary Islands, Barber is now a part of the New York jazz scene.
2011 was a very strong year for jazz album releases, and Diego Barber’s The Choice deserves to be considered among the best 2011 had to offer.
You can stream the entire album on Diego Barber’s bandcamp page, which I highly recommend, not just because it’s a great album, but because the 30 second samples offered by way of a preview on other sites don’t do the album justice.