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David Sánchez

When David Sánchez first appeared in record stores, he was quickly hailed as a promising tenor saxophonist. Sánchez’s brawny tone, blinding virtuosity, and preternatural ability to swing could not, however, make up for uneven live performances and a general lack of personality. That is, until last year, when he introduced his new sextet on Melaza. The album—whose title means “molasses” in Spanish—is far from syrupy. Dedicated to the African slaves working the sugar-cane fields in his native Puerto Rico, Melaza features play that is, indeed, nothing short of urgent: Menacing cross-rhythms come from drummer Antonio Sanchez (no relation) and percussionist Pernell Saturnino, both of whom rumble furiously underneath Sánchez’s bold tenor and Miguel Zenón’s spiky alto. On the front line, Sánchez and Zenón’s unisonant phrases craft unique timbres that are slightly metallic in their visceral vim but are hotblooded nonetheless. Hans Glawischnig’s molten bass lines and Edsel Gomez’s percussive piano accompaniments provide the perfect mortar and enable the sextet to forge an exhilarating and distinctive sound that has established Sánchez as a formidable leader of the new vanguard of Latin jazz. The same lineup returns on Sánchez’s latest disc, Travesía, which offers a sweeter side to the music: Though the tricky rhythmic interplay, vigorous improvisations, and soulful cries are still there, Travesía is more subtle and seductive, exposing even more of this group’s depth and range. At 8 p.m., 10 p.m., and midnight Saturday, Oct. 13, and at 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20. (202) 337-4141. (John Murph)