REVIEW: Antonio Sánchez, 'Three Times Three' and 'The Meridian Suite' (CAM Jazz/Sunnyside Records)

By Mike Greenblatt on Jul 04, 2015 03:00 AM EDT

After being robbed of an Oscar nomination by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for his relentless, drums-only soundtrack that helped Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) win big on Oscar night, drummer/composer/bandleader Antonio Sánchez, 43, has rebounded dramatically with two new jazz releases that stretch boundaries in multiple directions. (Apparently, according to the Academy, Sanchez was disqualified from Oscar contention for his inclusion of "pre-existing classical music.")

Too busy to drown his disappointment, a 150-city tour with guitarist Pat Metheny's Unity Group, replete with a GoPro, got his juices going enough to compose and record the soundtrack to Miles Ahead, the hotly anticipated Don Cheadle project which promises to show the mercurial icon Miles Davis--warts and all.

This time, Sánchez eschewed the classical fragments.

Three Times Three has the drummer leading three different trios on three tracks each via two discs. Guitarist John Scofield and bassist Christian McBride (his pro-Metheny cohort) provide the funky settings: stretching that groove to include Wayne Shorter's "Fall." Pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Matt Brewer provide the esoteric originals. Saxophonist Joe Lovano and bassist John Patitucci provide the long, dreamy moments, but break character for a free-form take of Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You."

The Meridian Suite, composed for his own working band, Migration, is an electro-acoustic romp for sax, guitar, keys, bass and drums. Layered with meticulous precision, most of the vocals by Thana Alexander are but mere wordless vowels stretched out, over, under, sideways and through the mix as just one more instrument. The effect is mesmerizing.

Antonio Sánchez, one of the most daring jazzmen of his generation, should get that elusive Oscar next time. Never one to sit and ponder his predicament, he'll be performing August 22 and 23 in San Francisco.

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TagsREVIEW, Antonio Sanchez, Three Times Three, The Meridian Suite, CAM Jazz, Sunnyside Records