World & Latin

Culture Warrior

20 MAY 08 JOHN C. BRUENING

Saxophonist David Sánchez's Cultural Survival is intriguingly deceptive. The eight songs on his eighth overall album -- and his debut on Concord Picante -- walk a fine line between the melodic and the atonal, the consistently rhythmic and the occasionally jarring.

But Sánchez knows exactly what he's doing. Cultural Survival weaves threads of African, Afro-Cuban and Caribbean influences into a tapestry that forces the listener to take an active role in the exchange. His quartet is a mix-and-match affair. Lage Lund plays guitar throughout the set, and Ben Street handles the bass on all but the final track, where Hans Glawisching steps in. Drummers Henry Cole and Adam Cruz each take four tracks, and Pernell Saturnino provides occasional percussion. Guest pianists Danilo Pérez and Robert Rodriguez also make appearances on three tracks.

Despite this coming and going, there's nothing disjointed about the overall presentation. The individual tracks are lengthy, but the segues are smooth to the point of seamlessness. The result is a stream of conscious experience that never disappoints. The moody "Adoración" is a tribute Eddie Palmieri, while the quiet, melancholy cover of "Monk's Mood" makes the set simply because, as Sánchez said, "It has always been one of my favorite pieces."

"The Forgotten Ones," low-key but slightly unsettled, is a tribute to the embattled residents of New Orleans, while the epic final track, "La Leyenda del Cañaveral" (spanning more than 20 minutes) was inspired by a poem written by Sánchez's sister. The poem, coincidentally, was inspired by an earlier Sánchez recording.

The album title comes from Sánchez's frequent questions about where the world is headed. "You realize you're surrounded by a younger generation that seems a little unconscious..." he said. Consider Cultural Survival a musical wake-up call.