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Joe Santa Maria is a great example of the new breed of jazz player – one who absorbs musical influences from across the spectrum of music and incorporates them into his own ideas. Arguably, that’s been happening since jazz began – cf. Dizzy Gillespie’s absorption of Latin music, for example. But as music styles continue to fragment into sub-genres and micro-subgenres, it takes a certain generation of player to fuse multiple elements at once into a singular vision. Woodwinds player and composer Maria and his cohorts do this well. Check out “Soap Box,” the second cut on his latest album Echo Deep. Strings, horns, and accordion meld to a 6/8 rhythm to create a piece that makes you think of classical music one minute and French chanson the next. Track over to “Mad Max,” which joins close-harmony horns to industrial percussion and strange electro-inspired melodies, like the Residents gone big band. Dig the groovy, clarinet-driven “Play Play” for some mysterio soundtrack/march/ambient kicks. Or dip into the opening track “Apix Groob,” which nods to its writer’s love of electronica demon Aphex Twin for a song that doesn’t fit into any category, let alone jazz, or even the Twin’s. There’s not a lot of swing here, admittedly, but that’s arguably a feature more than a bug. Instead, Maria uses many other paints in the box for a portrait of the artist as a young magpie.
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