Rather than take the easy path through Latin-jazz territory--simple montuno grooves that emphasize brass and percussion, or familiar tunes done up with Latin accents--saxist David Sanchez keeps pushing back its boundaries. Instead of a trumpet or trombone, he features another saxophone in his elegant, compact sextet--the alto of Miguel Zenon, an inventive but restrained player who seems to channel Eric Dolphy through a modern Latin sensibilty. Their interplay electrifies Sanchez's terrific 2001 offering, Travesia, as well as the earlier Melaza, both of which make a strong case for the vision of a true synthesis between Latin music and postbop improvisation. That vision--which he shares with pianist Danilo Perez--would mark Sanchez as a serious-minded rebel even if he'd never undertaken his 1998 symphonic project, Obsesion, a program of voluptuous ballads from Central and South America that avoided the smooth-jazz pitfalls of its tenor-and-strings setting. Now comes this summer's Coral (Columbia), which places not just Sanchez's saxophone but his entire sextet in the warm embrace of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The patient, muted arrangements of these eight compositions almost camouflage their Latin heritage entirely--it's a daring, demanding, and rewarding production that could never have worked with a group less practiced or secure. The quartet Sanchez brings to town stars two players from the record, pianist Edsel Gomez and drummer Adam Cruz; percussionist Pernell Saturnino isn't on this tour, and bassist Hans Glawischnig is filling in for John Benitez. Friday 24, 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. See also Saturday and Sunday.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.