A jazz musician’s most important asset lies on either side of his or her head. As trumpeter Bobby Shew said a couple of weeks ago at a concert at The Cooperage, “You can’t play this music if you don’t listen.”
Sitting behind him when he said that was one of the hippest rhythm sections around—not just around Albuquerque, but around—J ohn Rangel on piano, Luis Guerra on bass and Diego Arencon on drums. What makes them so hip are their really big ears, which have been sucking in sounds of all different kinds and folding them into their jazz for years. On the bandstand, those ears are cocked toward their mates, and they don’t miss a trick. The trio, which has been playing together for about three years now, moves as a single unit with a gravity-defying ease.
Thursday night at the Outpost, they’ll be headlining as John Rangel and the Solar Trio. Their session of deft, multifaceted jazz will be recorded binaurally—with a special microphone that mimics how human ears hear. You’ll be able to check out samples of binaural recording during intermission on headphone-equipped mp3 players, and later you’ll be able to download the evening’s music from a new recording label devoted to green distribution of music, Free to the Earth Music.
The “Solar” in the trio’s name references a new solar-powered recording studio built in Santa Fe by label founder Dave Weininger. The Earth-friendly setup feeds juice back into the grid, energizing its customers. The materials recorded there will be offered up in various formats for download. Weininger hopes to have the website (free2earth.com) up in time for the concert or shortly thereafter.
In addition to everyday stereo, the studio can record binaurally. This technique uses a dummy recording “head,” Fritz, whose ears are specially designed microphones. The objective is to reproduce sound the way a listener would hear it if present in the room. When listened to on headphones, binaural recordings deliver a startlingly clear, fully three-dimensional sound image that reproduces the aural quality of the recording space.
“It’s real exciting to share this with the audience,” says Rangel, who never imagined that he’d be involved in such a project.
On Rangel’s latest jazz CD, Letting Go, you hear classical touches, suave balladeering, hard bop, funk and Americana, all blended into a whole. He’s recently finished recording Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier in the solar-powered studio, and the trio has been working on a new jazz recording there. All three guys share a penchant for moving at will across musical boundaries, and Rangel’s not sure how to describe what the trio will be playing.
“The material that we’ll play will be material that we’ve recorded. We’re probably going to do some other creative things as Luis, Diego, and I can do,” he says.
“I have a couple of new arrangements of stuff and new tunes. You know, we like to keep each other guessing. We might spontaneously explode.” Rangel jokes. “I try to do things that put together a good show. I like to take people on a journey.”
He does mention a new composition by Guerra, “Obsession,” a recording of which Rangel offers up for listening. An achingly beautiful Latin-flavored ballad, this one alone is worth the price of admission.
In the end, he says, it’s about sharing “the love of our friendship and our musicianship and our camaraderie—that is what keeps us together.”