Recommended: David Mengual Free Spirits Big Band – “Vertebrats”


David Mengual - "Vertebrats"I’ve always had a thing for the music of David Mengual.  The term “free spirits” is very applicable to his music.  No matter the size of the ensemble, it possesses a lightness and a flowing motion that I always take to.  His newest, Vertebrats, an album that incorporates both an octet and big band formation, holds true to form.  Consisting of six different suites that all snap neatly into place, Mengual displays his ability to convey an orchestral grace to music with a pop music sensibility.  With pianist Toni Vaquer given the role of arranger and, in some instances, composer, the David Mengual Free Spirits Big Band eases its way through 32 tunes, originals and interpretations, short pieces and extended, and covering the expanse of jazz, rock, and classical.

The album opens with the eminent grace of “Canicas,” “En Patufet i sa lletuga” and “L’Ira del Bosc.”  All short pieces that have a lightness and flowing motion that accentuates a humble beauty.  It’s a quality that I associate most often with Mengual’s music.

Not uncommon are the dramatic shifts into a sense of urgency.  This happens here with fourth track “El Resumen,” which signals the beginning of surges of intensity, bouts of dissonance and thick introspective drifts.

The ensemble shifts into a new gear, starting with “Dimonis fent foguerons.”  They retain much of the intensity developed in the previous section, but now come together and focus on patient, lovely expressions of melody while taking the care to wrap them up carefully in thick, warm harmonies.  There’s no less drama than the previous section… it just coalesces where the previous section dispersed or collided.

After a short interlude of a straight-ahead jazz tune (“Plaga de ratas siguiendo a flautista enfermo”) and one more of the free variety (“Las crónicas de Saturno”), the album settles back into one of orchestral grace.  And, then, typical of Mengual’s sense of adventure, this ensemble begins a medley of classic rock tunes from Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles, before ending the album with the New Orleans inspired “Himne.”

Fun moments, beautiful moments, both, to be discovered on this enjoyable recording.  Go check it out.

Your album personnel:  David Mengual (director), Alvar Monfort, Natsuko Sugao (trumpet, flugelhorn), Ivan Gonzalez (trumpet, French horn), Joan Mas (alto sax), Miguel “Pintxo” Villar (alto, soprano sax), Gonzalo Levin (tenor sax, flute), Juan Saiz (flute), Aram Montagut, Dario Garcia (trombones), Amaiur Gonzalez (tuba), Enric Peinado (guitar, cavaquinho), Lina Lomanto, Toni Vaquer (piano, Hammond organ), Alex Reviriego (double bass), Josema Martín, Oriol Roca (drums, percussion), Roser Farré, Maria Ibáñez (violins), Alicia Domínguez (viola), Margarida Mariño (cello), Marcel-lí Bayer, Jordi Santanach (clarinets), Pau Domenech (bass clarinet) and Alfonso Fernandez Vargas (bassoon).

And for more listening, follow this LINK to Vaquer’s Soundcloud page, where he streams the “rock ‘n roll suite.”

Released in 2014 on Bebyne Records.

Jazz from the Barcelona scene.

Available at: eMusic | Amazon MP3