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TataMonk

by Alex de Grassi & Quique Cruz

Most record stores don't have a section labeled "Andean Jazz," but if TataMonk, a wonderful North-meets-South collaboration between guitarist Alex De Grassi and Chilean-born flutist Quinque Cruz, catches on, they may need to make another genre heading. TataMonk sets de Grassi's jazz-inflected acoustic guitar pickings and Cruz's Andean flutes and charangos (Andean stringed instruments) against the delicate jazz trio backdrop of pianist Michael Bluestein, bassist Jon Evans, and drummer Dan Foltz. It's a delicious cross-cultural pollination that successfully mixes traditional Andean melodies and instruments with jazz rhythms and harmonies. Fans of de Grassi's popular Windham Hill solo guitar recordings won't be disappointed, as his distinctive fingerstyle guitar work is happily in the forefront through most of the recording. But TataMonk stands out because of the ingenious and unusual context in which de Grassi places himself. As he explains in the liner notes, the wind instruments played by Cruz are traditionally only heard by themselves, and the juxtaposition of the traditional Andean folk melodies with de Grassi's plucked guitars and the jazz trio backing makes for a beautifully unique sound. On pieces like "Alba," a traditional Ecuadorian melody (here enhanced with odd-metered improvisations), and "Akamani," in which pipe flute melodies meet free-floating jazz swing rhythms, it's clear that de Grassi and Cruz have found a compelling musical blend. --Ezra Gale

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    Alex De Grassi and Quique Cruz
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    Alex De Grassi and Quique Cruz
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    Alex De Grassi and Quique Cruz
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    Alex De Grassi and Quique Cruz