Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 10/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first encountered Mario Canonge on Andy Narell's penultimate release, Sakesho. The Caribbean keyboard master lit a fire on those proceedings that continues to burn even brighter, remarkably, on this fine disc.
Featuring superstar guests Roy Hargrove and Richard Bona, Rhizome (which means, for those scientifically challenged, like me, "a rootlike underground stem") cooks and bubbles with a wicked jazz/zouk sensibility. Canonge is an absolute master at conjuring a deeply swinging Island vibe of major proportions. And though Hargrove and Bona help jack things to an even higher level, the real guest star here is the lesser known though hard-charging monster Boston (via Brazil) sax player Jacques Schwarz-Bart. Brilliantly strutting his stuff during a gripping and heartfelt solo on "Plein Sud," he announces his arrival among the top echelon of younger saxophonists with an insouciantly thrown-down gauntlet. Who will pick it up? is the question. He's showing up on a lot of major recordings of late, and Fresh Sound, the Spanish label, has a disc out (generally not available) with him as leader. But when's he going to sign with a major player or significant independent such as Palmetto, who he'd fit in with perfectly, in my humble opinion?
But this is the leader's show, and quite a show it is. Moving with uncanny ease between zouk, salsa, beguine, bolero, and Gwa Ko, not to mention overlaying it all with an authentic jazz sensibility, be it bop or ballad, Canonge proves himself not only a master of styles but an artist with the capability of communicating deeply within a huge variety of contexts. Equally adept on acoustic piano and Rhodes, the leader also writes tunes (they're all his) of remarkable range and power, deftly conjuring traditional musics from places as diverse as Haiti, Cape Verde, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, as well as his native Martinique, sometimes all at once, as on the title cut, "Rhizome."
Very much worth your attention."