Juan Saiz’ “Pindio II”

Juan Saiz

SAIZ: Index librorum prohibitorum. Dogma I. Aurora. El grito. Dogma II. Pindio. Prelude to Eber. Eber. Bellaskos. Lines / Juan Saiz, fl/t-sax; Marco Mezquida, pno; Manel Fortià, bs; Genis Bagès, dm / Leo Records CD LR 926

Juan Saiz is a Spanish saxophonist, flautist and composer who recorded his first CD six years ago under the name of his quartet, Pindio, thus here we get “Pindio II.”

Unlike much avant-garde jazz nowadays, Saiz uses a strong underlying beat in some of his pieces, but it’s an amorphous beat that doesn’t settle into a regular tempo. Harmonically, the opening track, Index librorum prohibitorum, is more modal than atonal, although Marco Mezquida’s piano solo is all over the map in a fast-paced atonal romp. Oddly enough, however, this music has its own underlying form, a strange sort of musical logic, about it. Even the slower-paced, more amorphic Dogma I, which features a great deal of odd percussion effects, “goes” somewhere rather than just floating about in space. These are compositions of great sophistication and considerable musical thought.

Aurora is a surprisingly lyrical, tonal piece for Saiz’ flute, opening gently with just a little light piano behind him, and even as they get further into the piece and the rhythm becomes more complex, the lyrical feeling is maintained. There’s also a hint of Middle Eastern harmony in this one. Although a ballad, it is not one of those simpering, wussy pieces so much in fashion nowadays, but rather a real composition with a theme statement and development. This is good quality music. El grito is another fast, hard-driving piece, but this time Saiz seems to stay with one chord through most of it, working out its unusual configuration through a tenor sax solo played with an edgy, distorted tone while the rhythm section roils behind him. Dogma II, though picking up where Dogma I  left off, is more abstract in form, less “finished” as a composition, whereas Pindio is a slow, bitonal flute meditation with gongs and cymbals going off in the background.

Thus we wend our way through the album, listening and absorbing all that Saiz has to offer, and it’s all interesting as well as moving. A little of it abstract but playful, some of it lyrical, some of it hard driving, but all of it interesting. Prelude to Eber is so abstract as to almost sound as if it comes from another album altogether, while Eber is a rhythmic but somewhat free-form romp in which the quartet sounds as if it’s having a whale of a good time. The only moment I didn’t care much for was the opening of Bellaskos, which was a drum solo that, frankly, didn’t go anywhere, but the rest of the track is a haunting piece which, once again, evokes Middle Eastern music.

Otherwise, Pindio II is a fascinating and rewarding listening experience—doors to the infinite in jazz being opened for you one by one.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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