Few saxophonists are capable of conjuring as many mutant sounds from their instrument as Sam Gendel. Since his 2017 debut, the LA-based instrumentalist has veered from downtempo melodics on 2018’s breakthrough Music for Saxofone and Bass Guitar to woozy, electronically processed versions of jazz standards on 2020’s Satin Doll and deconstructed R&B classics on 2023’s Cookup. Usually producing at least two albums a year, Gendel’s restless creativity challenges what breath can do through woodwind and Midi synthesis.
Given the circumstances, Gendel’s most recent endeavor marks a change in direction. Utilizing solely soprano saxophone and Brazilian musician Fabiano do Nascimento’s seven-string guitar, The Room is Gendel’s most direct acoustic album and one of his most emotionally resonant works.
Using his soprano saxophone, Gendel creates a soft and breathy sound that perfectly complements Nascimento’s strong finger-picking on the ten tracks of the album. The first track, “Foi Boto,” features a bossa-influenced guitar groove while Gendel’s saxophone mimics the sound of a flute, creating fluid melodies over the strings. The songs “Capricho” and “Astral Flowers” showcase Gendel’s ability to soar with his gentle tone, producing long and powerful lines over Nascimento’s percussive accompaniment.
Although it may seem gentle, The Room is not meant to be played in the background. Songs like Kewere and Poeira are intricately crafted, with Nascimento playing intricate repetitive patterns while Gendel’s warm and airy tone adds a emotive contrast, showing that silence can sometimes have a powerful effect.
Instead of creating a replica of the traditional Latin jazz found in Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s 1964 album, “Getz/Gilberto,” Gendel and Nascimento use minimalism to create their own intimate sound on “The Room.” This album is both compact and open, showcasing the power of acoustics. It is a contemporary masterpiece that showcases the skill of two talented musicians.
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Hakuna Kulala, a label from Uganda, presents a new release from the thriving electronic music scene of the country. MC Ratigan Era’s Era is a dynamic fusion of dancehall bass and shimmering synths, adding a gritty twist to the Jamaican genre while showcasing Era’s deep baritone flow. The Pan-African supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique returns with their third album, Musow Danse, released by Real World Records. By pairing booming 808 basslines and snappy electronic drums with their powerful voices, the group delivers their most rebellious and provocative record yet. Singer and bassist Ëda Diaz’s debut album, Suave Bruta, is a blend of syncopated Latin rhythms and manipulated electronics, released by Airfono Records. Diaz’s soulful jazz vocals provide a refreshing contrast to her raw production style, resulting in standout tracks like the energetic “Tiemblas.”