With his début Mack Avenue Records recording, REACH, pianist and five-time Grammy® Award nominee Christian Sands is stretching into exciting progressive territory. He breaks new ground traversing from the straight-ahead zone into fresh-sounding music. Influenced by a range of styles, from Afro-Cuban rhythms to hip-hop beats to dirty blues with an edge, it pops! That’s impressive for a youngster who is just 27. “The collection here is about reaching new ideas and reaching new music,” he says. “I’m reaching from past recordings to bring in the future, which is really all about finding myself. It’s a chance to express my experience.”
REACH, one more milestone in Sands’ auspicious career that stretches back to his New Haven, Connecticut upbringing. Beginning music classes and composing his first piece at age five, he quickly became a professional by ten. Sands’ was well prepared to attend such prestigious schools as the
Neighborhood Music School and the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven. He later received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.
The recording is co-produced by both Grammy®-Award winning producer Al Pryor and famed bassist Christian McBride. McBride collaborated with Sands in his Grammy® Award-winning trio, as well as some of his other groups, since 2009. “Upon first meeting Christian, I could feel a cool connection,” Sands recalls. “From when I first sat in with his Inside Straight band, I realized that we think about music in the same way. When I got signed to Mack Avenue, I asked if Christian could produce me, as someone who knows my playing and what I want to accomplish in my music.”
Christian Sands have built a stellar trio here, including bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Marcus Baylor. The album also features guests Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, and percussionist Cristian Rivera. He even convinced his producer to make a cameo appearance, bowing his bass at the end of the slow tempo Use Me.
The album ends on a romantic note with a non-original tune, somewhere Out There. Composed by James Horner, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The original recording, sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, won Grammy® Awards for its appearance in the 1986 animated film An American Tail. “I was looking for a ballad and I didn’t want to do Strayhorn or Porter,” Sands says. “I wanted to play something that was not that familiar. So I was talking to my mother and she said, ‘what about the song from the movie with the mouse that you used to watch when you were a kid?’ She used to sing it to me when I was four or five years old and my dad would play piano. So I told her she was genius; I don’t think this has ever been done as an instrumental. When people hear this, I’m hoping they go, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember this.’”
The end song is yet another example of how Sands shifts musical gears with a variety of styles on REACH. “Actually, my biggest influence in making this album was Michael Jackson’s Bad record,” he says. “There are so many different kinds of tunes on that, so many changes. So that’s what I was setting out to do.”
ABYSS Pick … Reach is cool, smooth, with a lot of groove – highly recommended. A joy to listen to. This one Jazz Diggers you don’t want to miss … ABYSSJazz Magazine