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Marcos Varela Bridges the Generations on new Origin Records Release 'San Ygnacio' [REVIEW]

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Jun 17, 2016 01:22 PM EDT | Mike Greenblatt (m.greenblatt@classicalite.com)

Marcos Varela

Bassist/Bandleader/Composer Marcos Varela (Photo : Laura Meraz)

Although his family goes back to the 1700s in San Ygnacio, Texas, bassist Marcos Varela honed his chops in New York City. With the Origin Records release of San Ygnacio, the young bandleader/composer bridges the generational gap within his own band by adhering to the tics of such famed jazzbos as pianist George Cables, drummer Billy Hart and trombonist Clifton Anderson, in whose bands he played. Add contemporaries Dayna Stephens and Logan Richardson on saxophones, Arnold Lee on alto (Spike Lee's brother), pianist Eden Ladin and drummer Kush Abadey, and you've got one deeeeeep 11-track trip with plenty of meandering routes and explosive solos.

Valera graduated Houston's High School for the Performing Arts (as did Beyonce) before getting gigs with Kendrick Scott, The Last Poets, Geri Allen and the Mingus Big Band. He's learned his lessons well, as he's went and recorded one of the more impressive debuts of the year. No less a bass legend than Ron Carter himself wrote the liner notes where he says that Varela's "tone, choice of notes and compositions will place his playing and name on the list of bassists to be heard."

"Pepper," by George Mraz, is the stunning highlight where the bass and the sax hiphop in unison to awe-inducing effect. "Looking For The Light" is a waltz. "Picturesque" pares the sound down to a lovely piano/bass/drums trio. "Where The Wild Things Are" is, indeed, for the children's book of the same name. The one obligatory standard is Sammy Cahn's 1944 "I Should Care," from the movie Thrill of a Romance. It's been covered dozens of times, most notably by Bing Crosby, Amy Winehouse, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bill Evans, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Diz, Bud, Monk and the MJQ.

When artists the stature of Carter, Hart, Cables and Anderson all get behind such a young bassist on his debut as a leader, you might want to see what all the fuss is about. In the clip below, you can certainly get a taste of the kind of bass chops that has the jazz world taking notice.

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