I’m always a little worried when it comes to reviewing jazz bassists, ok, perhaps worried is the wrong word but given that I dabble a little in jazz double bass I have to ready myself for getting my confidence knocked when I hear what can be achieved by someone that has committed more time, more practice and, ultimately has infinitely more talent than little old me.
Vladimir Torres is one of these people and, I’m sad to say, the list is growing…
So firstly, Torres is of Uruguayan origin, has a Russian first name and is based in France, phew! and Brujos is his third album, it was funded by Kickstarter by those who know good musicians when they hear them and, lets’ get one thing straight from the get-go, Vladimir Torres is a very special bass player!
There is a bit more than just jazz flying through the instrument, there seems to be magic in those fingertips (hence the album title perhaps, brujos meaning sorcerer in Spanish) but every great musician needs good music to play and within these ten songs we travel between flamenco, afro, bebop and everything inbetween.
The music is intricate, the piano and drum rhythms are set perfectly for Torres’ bass to accompany, and this is the key to the music, accompany; quite often the temptation is to place the focal instrument in the limelight and build the music around it, but given that the instrument in question is primarily a support instrument it needs to not only shine but also to give foundation to everything around it. No mean fete and it’s perfectly placed by being a constant juggling act between team player and solo performer.
If I’m honest I’ll tell you that it’s sickening how good the solos are, take opening track ‘Bilbao Granada’, the bass comes into its own, surrounded by off rhythms and South American flavours, and doesn’t miss a beat, enhancing the overall sound before an equally impressive piano solo takes flight, all the time the tinny percussive shocks of the drums. Brilliant.
‘She Comes and Goes’ opens with a solo bass part, everything about the instrument is there to hear and experience, every note, every vibrato, every click of steel on wood, it’s beautiful and leads into a sax piece to open the song. Honestly, it’s glorious, rich and almost edible, and as almost-ballads go, it’s so good.
There is a Thelonious Monk vibe to ‘The T(H)ree of Us’ opening, before turning into a classic-sounding 1950’s New York jazz club tune and sits well in the collection of songs, occasional switches to sax solo and a rhumba-style rhythmic pattern, it’s effortless but effective.
By the time we reach the final track ‘Atlantico’, you know you’ve been treated to something quite special, with it’s North African brass choices and stripped back production, it feels organic and off-the-hoof. I don’t remember the last time I was this disappointed to reach the end of an album, I could quite happily listen to another ten tracks, luckily, we can go to the beginning and start again.
Torres is a busy player, touring Europe almost constantly and sharing his spellbinding music, after this album I think I’ll be catching the next train to France and tracking him down. If you like jazz but also appreciate that the music has moved on since the Blue Note days of the greats, check this out, there is enough there to keep even the wildest jazz head happy.