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This is unknown territory to me, but it is one I am glad to have been exposed to, and I bet you will be too. The Sir Sultry Quintet is headed by Ethan Margolis and collaborates with well-known Jazz and Gypsy Flamenco artists alike.
The product is a sound, shockingly, that meshes flamenco music with jazz and blues. The album is due out on July 15 and it gets its name from a combination of two words: Soleá and Angeles. Soleá is one of the most basic forms of flamenco music and Angeles is in reference to the band's home turf, Los Angeles. In melding the two genres, Margolis combines the Flamenco rhythms and harmonies with the improvisation of jazz.
The album is composed of two main sounds. One mimics the interaction between a flamenco dancer and her accompaniment. The guitars and pianos remain as accompaniment, but the dancer is replaced with a flute or saxophone. Other songs on the album, rather than focusing on the instruments, focus on the vocalists.
To do so, Margolis draws from a wide range of both Spanish and American artists. Among them are Judith Hill, Mitchel Forman, Jimmy Branly, Juan Bacán, Ramón Porrina, and Hussain Jiffry. These big time jazz musicians deliver powerful performances reminiscent of their respective cultures.
The first track of the album, “Before It Gets Cold” features male vocals accompanied by a bass guitar, flute and what sounds like an organ. This song, especially the vocals, reminds me of The Squirrel Nut Zippers. In featuring both male vocals and a strong flute, the track falls somewhere between the two main sounds I have described. It also leans more towards the blues influences of the group. This provides a nice juxtaposition to the next song which follows the second format; a flute soloist accompanied by drums, piano, and guitar. The support sounds like it has Flamenco influences while the flute sounds more like improvisational jazz. The two blend well together, much to Margolis’ content I would expect.
In other cross-genre news, track five, “Love Bubbles” beautifully uses flamenco guitar and drums amidst jazzy flute solos and soulful female vocals. I have a suspicion that Margolis put a lot of time into deciding how to order the tracks, as one flows so nicely into the other that it is sometimes hard to know when one song ends and another begins. At the same time the songs shift seamlessly from focusing on one influence over another.
For example, the jazz feel of “Love Bubbles” carries on into the next track and focuses more on that aspect of their influences. This is not to say that the flamenco aspects are not present, just that they take a back seat to the jazz influences.
Coming into this review I expected that I would dislike the album, but I was pleasantly surprised and, regardless of your level or familiarity with the genre, I think you will be too. I am a testament to that.
Favorite Tracks: “Before It Gets Cold,” “La Referncia” and “Smile at Life”