Sing To The World
Review by Willard Manus

Benito Gonzalez’s fifth album, SING TO THE WORLD, is both a revelation and an inspiration. The Venezuelan-born, New York-based pianist’s work was unknown to me until now, but after listening to his new CD–-and being stirred by it–-I’ve become one of his biggest fans.

In SING TO THE WORLD Gonzalez leads the way on ten tunes, eight of which are original compositions. Backing him are such stellar musicians as Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Christian McBride (bass) and Sasha Mashin (drums). Together they play with explosive force and rhythmic abandon, making for a burst of toe-tapping, African-flavored music. Then they shift gears and slow down as they interpret ballads by Roy Hargrove(“Father”) and Jeff “Tain” Watts (“412") with much delicacy and warmth.

Gonzalez points to McCoy Tyner as his inspiration. “When I was a kid someone gave me a cassette of John Coltrane’s ‘Afro Blue,’” he recalls. “Wow. I set out to investigate who the piano player was. And it was McCoy Tyner. I knew I couldn’t play like that, but I identified with him.”

Much later, in 2018, Gonzalez recorded a heart-felt tribute to McCoy, “Passion Reverence Transcendence.” McCoy endorsed the album. “He said he loved the way we did his‘Fly With the Wind.’ I spent three hours talking with him,” Gonzalez confided.

“I don’t write complicated tunes with hard jumps and stuff,” he added. “I like strong beats rooted in Africa which is where my father’s ancestors came from. I like it when people dance to this music. I want them to hear the dance beats when we play.”

(Rainy Days Records)