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Rodrigo Recabarren/Pablo Menares/Yago Vazquez - Familia (Greenleaf)

8 March 2024

When neophytes (like myself) think of Latin jazz, we often think of big, percussion-heavy bands that sustain grooves to enliven a dance floor. But there are many shades to Latin jazz, just as there is for any other kind of music. Familia, from drummer Rodrigo Recabarren, bassist Pablo Menares, and pianist Yago Vazquez, is a good example. With a rhythm section from Chile and a pianist from Spain, the beats here don’t reflect the danceable end of Latin America. Instead the trio draws on the Chilean chacarera and the Galician xota to find cultural beats that intersect and evolve. Recabarren and Menares can clearly handle any rhythm the threesome comes up with, and Vazquez sounds comfortable adding melody to any incarnation. His relaxed riffing and angular chord work encourages the tunes to be melodic but not too comfortable, the trio slipping an addictive tension into the performances without toppling over into dissonance. That gives lively wonders like “Castro” and “Aninovo” a special kick, and prevents beautiful ballads like “Después de Todo” from getting too lush. Familia is as gorgeous, complicated, and joyful as the concept the title celebrates.