The guitarist Álvaro Imperial, originally from Murcia, has trained internationally, residing in such emblematic cities for jazz as Berlin, New York and Barcelona, where he has lived since 2017 and completed his Higher Studies at the Taller de Múscic. In early October 2022, his first album will be released with the Álvaro Imperial Quartet project, Calima, where seven compositions are collected and where the jazz tradition flows from a renewed vision. With them, they seek to return to the root of this music: to its liberation, its live play and the prevailing improvisation in all the proposals. The seven tracks that make up Calima allow the public to take a complex and compact journey through the diversity of jazz forms modern.
The paragraph above is taken from Álvaro Imperial’s website and is all I have been able to find out about the artist. However, I have listened to the album and for a debut release I think it is rather good. The title track gets us underway with a strong piano intro and repeated phrases from alto saxophonist Perico Sambeat. The melody is then picked up by the guitarist and I do like Álvaro’s tone along with solid support from the bass and drums. The guitar drops out and we get the alto sax back but with greater energy until things calm down as the track comes to an end. Perico Sambeat also features on ‘Cu-Cu’ after a great opening from piano and drums. As withy the previous track sax and guitar swap lead on the tune and the contrast between the two makes for a very enjoyable listen. There is a very good rhythm section break around the halfway point followed by more from the alto sax. It is the bass and drums that drive this track and both play in a controlled attacking style that I really enjoyed.
‘Isolated Pawn’ has a percussive piano opening that underpins the guitar sound of Álvaro Imperial. This track has a freer feel about it, driven and energetic until calm descends and the piano plays a slower repeating pattern over which the guitar plays its own repeating phrases. This track is different in its compositional style to the previous two tracks and makes for an interesting listen. ‘Freeze’ has a feel of gravitas about it and features a wonderful bass solo from Héctor Tejedo. The guitar playing is very strong and very well played and the accompaniment from the rhythm section is so good that I just had to hit the repeat button to take in more of the emotion generated.
‘Halloumi’ is a good quartet track with a very good bass line and nice interplay. In many way this feels like the most straight-ahead jazz tune, a new tune that has a feeling of familiarity about it – this would go down well in most jazz clubs up and down the UK. ‘Posh World’ carries on where ‘Halloumi’ left off but at a brisker tempo. Imperial’s guitar playing on this one is very assured as he moves around the fretboard. Txema Riera on piano gets to play some great lines with wonderful backing from bass and drums. The final number, ‘ Les Traces del Silenci’, brings back the alto of Perico Sambeat on a relaxed, slow tempo tune. The alto tone is sublime and the piano accompaniment matches the sound perfectly. Imperial then adds his own colour to the tonal pallet and takes nothing away.
Calima offers the listener a combination of traditional jazz with experimental European style jazz and, in my opinion, pulls it off with skill and flair. The quartet/quintet formations portray the compositions in different tones and sonorities that give the listener a variety of sounds, textures, and emotions to connect with. This is a very strong debut album and highlights the musical health of European jazz and, in particular, jazz being released from Spain.
Musicians: Álvaro Imperial – guitar; Perico Sambeat – alto sax; Txema Riera – piano; Ancor Miranda – drums; Héctor Tejedo – double bass.
Tracklist: 1. Calima feat. Perico Sambeat. 2. Cu-Cu feat. Perico Sambeat. 3. Isolated Pawn. 4. Freeze. 5. Halloumi. 6. Posh World 7. Les Traces del Silenci feat. Perico Sambeat.
Calima is a CRU Records release available from 14th October, 2022.