Dec 5 2015
Guitarist Cristian Hernández approaches his jazz-classical music project with a chessboard vision. With all the pieces spread out before him, Hernández goes about illustrating all of the different potential moves that can be executed when you bring together elements of jazz and classical music together, and even though each adopt very different forms expression, there’s no room left for doubt that A Strings Affair all belong to the same vision.
There’s the gentle ambiance of “Autumn in Barcelona,” with its lazy day sway and finely shaped threads of melody. Hernández gives space for both his jazz guitar trio and the string quartet to get in some solos, and he keeps them steadied in the same focused vision, and that’s why each solo presents itself as a series of waves lapping up against the shore. It’s an arresting sort of tranquility, further evidenced by the way it still holds sway over the album even when subsequent track “Oreneta Coleman” breaks through with increasingly heavy dissonance and improvisation. Intriguingly, the squeak of strings comes off sounding like the chirping of birds, and even when the song enters into a state of high volatility, that little bit of a throwback to the seaside peacefulness of the previous track tamps down the potential for transition shock between the two songs.
Title-track “A Strings Affair” finds a middle ground between the two opening tracks. The invocation of tranquility isn’t a motivating factor, but, also, when they do let their voices rise up, the song maintains its tight focus on the expression of melody and the way its woven into the fabric of its own fragments. Both the jazz trio and the string quartet continue to act as one, sometimes in a seamless unison and sometimes as different parts so commingled as to make it difficult to differentiate between the individual parts. It’s the kind of thing that keeps the ear busy paying attention to many things at once, while simultaneously connecting with the unmissable observation that there is only one expression, just with many facets.
“The Giant” isn’t that far removed from its predecessor, but it does indulge the inclination to lean back and roar. In itself, it’s a fun track, but that it leads into the album finale “String Quartet for Béla Bartók,” which Hernández composed only for the string quartet to perform, it goes a long to showing just how daring this unassuming recording really is. Of particular interest is the way this song with the heavy classical influence doesn’t stray far from the effusiveness of the previous track, “The Giant,” which leaned far heavier on the jazz influence. It’s yet one more sign of how this septet manages to vary their expressiveness widely while never straying far from the same patch of turf.
A seriously enjoyable recording, and a nice little find as the year comes to a close.
Your album personnel: Cristian Hernández (guitar), Xavi Castillo (double bass), Josep Cordobés (drums), Mireia Vila (violin), Apel·les Carod (violin), Elena Martínez (viola) and Marta Pons (cello).
The album is Self-Produced.
Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Jazz from the Barcelona scene.
Available at: Bandcamp