In the album notes of La Proxima, guitarist Corey Christiansen writes that his primary influence for this album was a desire to further explore African- and Cuban-inspired rhythm and groove. Christiansen was helped in this project by percussionist Michael Spiro, a fellow teacher at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, and bassist David Belove and drummer Colin Douglas, and together the quartet blend contemporary jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythm to great effect.
On the opening track, Meraki, Christiansen employs a distinctly John Scofield-esque approach with a gritty but warm tone, mixing striking harmonic intervals with fast melody and improvisation. Drums and percussion generate the majority of the sonic content, with a complex and constantly shifting rhythm, while Belove provides a lightly swung bass line, occasionally in unison with the guitar.
On the third track, With You, the mood changes to a more Cuban-influenced style, the acoustic guitar leading a composition backed by hand drumming and percussion. Ambedo opens with a simple, grooving riff, reminiscent of the early Fela Kuti albums, before Christiansen begins to improvise, supported by a driving, mid-tempo rhythm from the band. The final track, Awakening, maintains the interesting fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythm and modern jazz, this time with a guitar solo notable for its echoes of Pat Metheny.
Christiansen’s project produces fantastic results, not least because of the skill and originality with which the band blends their influences of African and Cuban rhythm and modern jazz. Christiansen’s ability as a guitarist makes for an excellent lead to the ensemble, and bass, drums, and percussion blend together to make a great sounding album with plenty of variety.
Meraki; Street Cred; With You; Ambedo; My Sofia; I’ll Just Wait; Awakening (46.23)
Christiansen (g, elg); David Belove (b); Michael Spiro (pc); Colin Douglas (d, pc). Utah, January 2019.
Origin Records 82785