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A soaring note of hope

Luis Munoz - Invisible
(Pelin Music)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: March 26, 2010
Luis Munoz

Review by Brad Walseth

Acclaimed Costa Rican composer/producer/percussionist/pianist Luis Munoz's work has been rightfully hailed worldwide, with his previous two releases Vida (2004) and Of Soul and Shadow (2007) receiving excellent reviews and numerous awards. No doubt Munoz's latest release will continue to cement his reputation as one of the finest and most creative Latin Jazz artists alive, as Invisible is a luminous work full of beautiful subtlety and life spirit. The shimmering "Adam's Dream" starts this wonderful musical journey off with a peaceful, yet insistent pull - somewhat reminiscent of the relaxed vibe engendered by Danilo Perez and Claus Ogerman on Across a Crystal Sea. This delicious atmosphere continues on "Luz Del Sur" - which manages to merge island marimbas and percussion with pedal steel guitar and Ennio Morricone soundtrack trumpet (by Jonathan Dane) in a manner so natural you wonder why everyone doesn't do it. Munoz's production stars, and his arrangements are colorful and precise as a fine watercolor. "Sobrevivencia" is upbeat and somewhat more traditional Latin Jazz sounding (albeit with Munoz's complexities) and features the brilliant David Binney (a huge South and Central American music fan) on a slippery waterfall alto solo.

The rest of the album maneuvers nicely between twilight shades (with great nylon-string guitar work by Chris Judge) to original takes on modern Latin jazz (Ron Kalina's chromatic harmonica is a treat on "Marantial"), with even a delightful tango (with violin by Laura Hackstein and Munoz on piano and alto flute) to end the album. But perhaps the centerpiece of Invisible - which is dedicated to the sick, poor and homeless - the invisible among us - is the inspiring, gospel-influenced "Hymn" with Lois Mahalia on vocals - which offers up a soaring positive note of hope that is much appreciated in these dark times. One of my favorite albums so far this year.

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