Joan Torres' All is Fused - Before

One of the funny things about jazz bassist's albums is how they can seem to be in the background of the music, even on their own recordings. Such is sometimes the case with bass player Joan Torres and the group he leads, All Is Fused on their release Before. Even so, this album does a really great job of many times using electronic instrumentation � the variety you'd mainly expect to be applied to jazz fusion � to create a surprisingly traditional collection of music.

Torrres' bass work doesn't truly stand out until five tracks in, where he takes a lovely, thoughtful solo on the ballad "Disbelief." It's a sparse, quiet track this allows Torres to stretch out and shine. Guitarist Sergio Gonz�lez also takes a similar approach during his solo. I just love it when musicians sound to be in no great hurry when they take a solo. Far too often, players � even seasoned jazz players � come off far too eager to impress. Not so with this ensemble, however. Instead, this is a song that finds its soloists nearly whispering out their musical thoughts, like diners at a formal dinner party conversing quietly.

Pianist David Ojeda also finds many spots to impress with his playing. He's the center of attention, for instance, during the opening track, "Doorway," which has a melody that somehow sounds like the group Weather Report, meets the Star Wars Theme. On it, Ojeda's electric piano work carries the tune.

Curiously, while Torres is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, his compositions with All is Fused rarely sound particularly Latin. Instead, his music very much sounds like straight, traditional American jazz. It isn't until "True," five tracks in, that you start to get the notion that his player is not American born. Drummer Fernando Garcia swings its beat in a slightly Latin manner, while Jonathan Suazo takes an emotional, nicely John Coltrane-like alto saxophone solo.

For jazz fans that appreciate traditional jazz, but grew up in the jazz fusion era, All I Fused gives such listeners the best of both worlds. Granted, this is not how, say, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers did it. However, what Torres does reminds me a little bit of the way Miles Davis approached it, back when he first began to experiment with what would go on to become fusion music. He simply featured musicians playing electronic instruments, many times still doing what they would normally be doing on their acoustic instruments.

Although much of this album leans toward the quiet side, Torres and his drummer Garcia get into a nice, propulsive groove during the many times fast paced, and appropriately named, "The Chase." It's a composition that proves once again how jazz doesn't need to incorporate traditional rock elements, to rock. In places, this track, indeed, rocks.

In the end, you're left with respect for the way Joan Torres is so inclusive with his fellow musicians of All Is Fused on Before. It is decidedly an ensemble work. Even though Torres is only occasionally the star of his own show, much like Art Blakey once did it before him while leading the Messengers, he lets his band sound like a real united band, rather than a mere backing group.

Joan Torres' All is Fused - Before

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