Jazz pianist Christian Sands’ Facing Dragons
in stores today, 9/21

PHOTO: ANNA WEBBER | Just thirty years old, critically acclaimed jazz pianist/composer Christian Sands represents a new generation of musicians schooled, like many of his contemporaries in other genres, on a wide range of musical styles. He brings all of his influences to bear on Facing Dragons, his current effort for Mack Avenue Records. It’s out today.

“Sangueo Soul,” a track that was pre-released back in early August, sets the stage for what’s to come on the full album. Sands had this to say about the song, “(It’s) an infectious groove influenced by the rhythms of the Caribbean and South America…I grew up in the gospel church but also around many other styles of music, so they all inspire me in similar ways.”

Though much of the album was recorded using his touring trio of Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Jerome Jennings on drums, some of the most fascinating tracks feature two percussionists—Cristian Rivera and Roberto Quintero on Venezuelan indigenous percussion (cumaco, clarin, laures, maracas). The first three of those instruments may be unfamiliar to most listeners but they help create a mighty force, especially in conjunction with Sands’ very percussive piano technique.

The music on the album varies widely from the full-footed stomp of “Fight For Freedom,” which features a stellar two-man horn section (Marcus Strickland on sax and Keyon Harrold on trumpet) to a jaunty cover of The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” One could argue does the world really need another cover of that 1960s chestnut? But Sands’ take on one of Paul McCartney’s most beloved songs answers the question with an emphatic “yes.”

The song is a 7-minute tour-de-force with Sands and his bandmates taking the tune in a direction defined by his youthful imagination. Sands approaches the cut with aplomb, even dropping a few notes of the melody into his solo. His attack on the piano is matched by the syncopated rapport of his rhythm section.

Elsewhere on the album, Sands goes back to church on “Sunday Morning” and down to Brazil on “Samba da Vela.” Here his guitarist Caio Afiune shines. The interplay between the musicians is stellar especially during Sands’ solo as Afiune drops in sweet lines and Nakamura emotes on his bass.

Facing Dragons is a strong album representing everything that is great about jazz and its latest generation of practitioners. Says Sands, “I want people to feel connected through a story that I’m telling. On this record, I want to remind people to always push forward and move in positivity.”

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