Sunday, May 7, 2017

Album Review: Matt Otto with Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica

Ibérica, the new album by Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica, is so rapturously beautiful that sensitive listeners might be inclined to savor it only on special occasions.  The sublime recording would provide ideal accompaniment to the celebration of an anniversary or the homecoming of a newborn baby.

Limiting play of Iberica to extraordinary life moments would be a shame. Even though it might seem like an extravagant misappropriation of delicate artistry, Ibérica is capable of enlivening and elevating even the most mundane activities.  Otto, one of Kansas City’s most accomplished jazz musicians, and Beau Bledsoe the leader of the Latin-themed chamber group Ensemble Ibérica and the Turkish jazz band Alaturka, are proven creators of transcendent music.

Unlike many so-called third stream albums that seem stuffy or precious, Iberica is a consistently soothing aural balm that is nonetheless imbued with a sad awareness of the bittersweet truths of life.  Iberica echoes the most abstract works of the late jazz masters Jim Hall and Paul Desmond, but a handful of notable Kansas City musicians give the project a local flavor.

Brad Cox contributes keyboards and electronic effects.  Bledsoe, Michael McClintock and Jordan Shipley add a tasteful array of stringed instruments including guitars, oud and cavaquinho.  Cello and gently swinging bass are played by Karl McComas-Reichl.  The ethereal steel guitar work of Mike Stover adds earthy textures to the beguiling album.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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