Diego Rivera : Mestizo Review
Diego Rivera is back with a new album titled Mestizo on Posi-Tone Records. The tenor saxophonist and composer is accompanied by Art Hirahara, piano; Boris Kozlov, bass; and Rudy Royston, drums, percussion. Rivera composed eight of the ten selections, and Alex Sipiagin joins on trumpet and flugelhorn on two tracks. Rivera’s releases are always an adventure of Latin jazz combined with modern jazz, and Mestizo is no exception.
“Battle Fatigue” opens the album with an expertly layered composition that features the two horns snaking their way through a modern melody with counterpoint over an exciting, upbeat feel of swing and straight eights. Rivera takes the first solo with his usual expressionistic phrasing and flowing melodies. Sipiagin’s lines flow over the measured pulse of the bass and drums with a fine groove that is based in melody. The form and writing harken back to the grand two-horn ensembles of the 50s, but with a modern harmonic esthetic. The ensemble is conjoint in their listening and interacting, which results in a gripping performance.
“La Raza Cósmica” is another Rivera original featuring the trumpet and saxophone over a Latin feel. The melody is enjoyably light and full of radiance as the rhythm section is infused with an in-sync Latin groove: Kozlov and Royston are a force of nature in their steady support of the ensemble. Sipiagin and Hirahara both perform passionate solos. Rivera methodically builds his solo with elegance and grace; the rhythm section’s groove further imposes the piece’s sense of joyfulness. At this point, it is clear that Rivera’s compositions are a vehicle for the ensemble to create an atmosphere of musical celebration.
Mestizo has a compelling combination of modern sonorities, feels, and improvisation paired with lyricism, leading to a dynamic listening experience. The ensemble has chemistry, and the group never fails to impress with its deep sense of time and ability to listen and interact with each other.
February 11, 2022