JAZZ WIRES, BRUTAL FAIRYTALE – REVIEW
by Constance Tucker
Raul Blanco hails from Camaguey, Cuba. He began his studies on piano at seven years old at Luis Casas Romero, in Camaguey, and when he was ten years old, he was accepted into the Music Conservatory “Alejandro Garcia Caturla.” When Blanco was eighteen, he moved to the United States and became a part of the Houston, TX music scene. He began producing with a friend, singer Niho Mozas, and they spent four years producing an album; and in the process, he further garnered his abilities in arranging, studio recording, mixing, mastering, editing, and everything related to studio work.
This experience also lent itself to his teaching position at a middle school, where he helped the kids compose their songs, create tracks, record them and make music videos. The result was a project of about 20 songs. Giving the kids life experiences of creativity. In 2017, with the help and recommendations of Horace Alexander Young, he was able to start his master’s at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. There he met piano teacher Brian Ward, who (almost magically) helped Blanco have a deeper understanding of jazz.
In February 2018, Blanco began his jazz project, Jazz Wires, and they started playing and recording standards and original compositions and have since released four singles and four albums. Brutal Fairytale is Jazz Wires follow-up to Land of Giants and continues to explore Blanco’s original music as well as two selections for his bandmates. “It was a fun challenge to incorporate Afro-Cuban rhythms, reggae, ska, and pop-rock ballads to our palette. Also, as a way to transcend to more commercial music, I incorporated vocals to some tunes, trombonist Gabriella Aragon and myself are featured singing,” explains Blanco.
The title track opens with a dramatic introduction that leads to the melody sung by Aragon. The lyrics are enchanting, and the music flows behind the vocals with rich backgrounds, and a deep swing feels from the rhythm section. Aragon sings with an accent, and her tone is enjoyable and elegant. Brandt Fisher takes a fine solo. Blanco’s composition has many sections, and he controls the space with many feel changes, well-written orchestrations, and a sense of drama.
“Trances of You” features Blanco singing an imaginative set of lyrics set to a hypnotic straight-eight feel. Blanco’s vocal tone offers fragility, which fits the lyrics well. It is evident that Blanco’s natural gift is composing and piano playing, which he has a depth of techniques and abilities. His singing is pleasant but not as rich as the before mentioned skills. This composition builds beautifully, and his orchestrations of rich in colors and sonic diversity.
Brutal Fairytale is a diverse set of compositions and playing by Jazz Wires and Blanco. Blanco is a superb composer and pianist. Though the album only contains three songs with vocals out of the ten presented, the seven instrumentals are excellent. Indeed, an album for the music lover that loves the passion and allure of Latin Jazz and well-constructed compositions. Blanco’s combination of musical styles adds charm and brilliance to his piano playing and composing, and it enlivens the work of his entire sextet. With his slant on Cuban and Western jazz, it will be fascinating to hear how he builds his concepts from here.