Carles Benavent: Belle Solitude

The distinctive, possibly Pastorius-influenced Spanish bassist makes a strong impact through discerning use of instrumentation and arrangement

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The latest album by Spanish bassist Carles Benavent, a player often redolent of Jaco Pastorius, is a joy. Not the least of its virtues is the way 10 musicians in small combo permutations reflect how percussion informs their cultural inheritance. There are 11 charts, seven by him (one shared with harpist Edmar Castañeda), two by pianist Roger Mas, one by guitarist Jordi Bonell, and one by Chick Corea.

To call them exquisite would be to misjudge the effect of their romantic leanings and their quiet intensity, but the percussion, employing by turns udú, cajon, tabla and palmas (hand-clapping), avoids the ferocity of flamenco; instead, the percussive effects are levelled with Benavent’s lyrical bass and are not just background feather-bedding. When vocalist Carme Canela makes a late, almost fleeting, appearance on Mas’s Estrena to side with the bass, it’s as if the leader’s astute choice of personnel is the key to each chart’s accomplishment.

Canela’s understated vocalese is mirrored in Benavent’s use of the flugelhorn on his Belle Solitude, Get Out Of Here and Give Me A Kiss, the last his tribute to Angelique, his wife/partner of 50 years. On a few tracks he also plays the mandola, the “tenor” version of the mandolin. On the second, not even the Asian exotic of Tino di Geraldo’s tabla takes anything away from the bass/flugel overlay or Benavent’s versatility in also adding his guitar to the mix.

The subtlety of the percussion ensures the music’s appeal, even when on Bonell’s Layetan’s Groove Aleix Tobias’s drum kit is absorbed into the percussive effects when it might have been heard as simply a nod towards an exclusively jazz sound linked to Bonell’s expressive guitar lines. Benavent’s bass is always alert to melodic opportunity and overall its use gives depth rather than excessive weight to each chart. Mas introduces Estrena, which echoes with Metheny/Mays nostalgia and captures the mood of the whole album.

Discography
Alegria De Júlia; Belle Solitude; Estrena; Layetan’s Groove; Get Out Of Here; Al Mare; Campanilla; La Casa Cerrada; Eternal Child; Give Me A Kiss; La Casa De Mis Sueños (47.41)
Benavent (b, g, md, flh); Joan Albert Amargós (kyb); Roger Mas (p); Carme Canela (v); Jordi Bonell (g); Edmar Castañeda (hp); Aleix Tobias, Tino di Geraldo, Roger Blavia, David Dominguez (pc, d). Barcelona, 2021-22.
Bebyne Records CDB 025