A gentle, relaxed feel does not necessarily define a CD as "smooth jazz," not when there are fine solos and real drums, as is the case here. This release by Costa Rican-born, California-based composer/drummer Luis Muñoz is companionable yet creative; there are no barn-burners, but there are enjoyable textures and occasional surprises. Compassion, his second effort for Fahrenheit Records, contains ten Muñoz originals that incorporate varied instrumental combinations and moods but are all Central American- or South American-inflected, melodic, and compactly arranged with style and flair. The travelogue includes stops in Brazil ("Romance," "Pasion"), the Andes ("Nicoya"), and the Caribbean ("Islands"). The standout composition is the title track, a ballad inspired by Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla that features the warm, soulful violin of Gilles Appap; the most ambitious is "Yiguro," where Muñoz musicially describes a fairy-tale dream he had. In fact, there's a distinctly soundtrack feel to much of this music, which may reflect Muñoz's two decades as a composer for film, TV, theater, and dance. (He has also backed Flora Purim and Airto, Etta James, and Jim Messina.) The CD has a reigning aura of gentle romance, which is enhanced by fine performances by pianist Adam Asarnow, acoustic guitarist Chris Judge, and flügelhorn player Jonathan Dane.
Luis Muñoz's freedom of expression on Compassion features a unique blend of rhythms and melodies from around the world, beautifully interpreted through an array of instruments including violins, vibes, accordion, acoustic guitar, chromatic harmonica and cello.
The world class drummer and percussionist has composed, arranged and orchestrated all of the music for this, his second release, with each song framing the elegance, grace, whimsical and romantic influences he has nurtured throughout his musical experience. "Romance," and "Pasión," are monuments of melody inspired by a romantic nature and his admiration and respect for Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Muñoz's use of a chromatic harmonica on " Pasión" to convey this sensuous emotion is highly original and reflects his talent to apply different colors and textures on his new canvas of creativity. Muñoz continues his freedom of expression with a story from his childhood surfacing on "Yigüirro," with the flute, piano and flugelhorn in lead roles.
Capturing the essence of a sensual night, a hot cha-cha ignites the set, then burns, simmers and creatively dims into a peaceful ballad on "The Sleep of The Innocent." Muñoz, through his use of an exotic, imaginative, paradoxical twist, reveals the Latin strength and vulnerability of "Monteverde," a majestic rainforest of the same name. Accompanied by Tom Buckner's sax, bassist Randy Tico and percussionist Brad Dutz, Muñoz conveys his emotional connection to the natural resources of his native Costa Rica.
The light-hearted "Nicoya," is a delightful, rhythmic romp through another aspect of his musical life while, "Compassion," the title track, is a beautiful arrangement for violin, bass and piano inspired by the great Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. This brilliant song has Adam Asarnow embracing the listener with a flowing, intuitive piano solo as string virtuoso, while Gilles Appap envelopes your heart in the rapture of his string eloquence. And Tico's understated bass lends just the right atmosphere to the trio's rhythmic sense. Compassion represents the next splendid phase of Luis Muñoz's career and is a brilliant display of his creativity and love of music. Enjoy!