EMI Music Spain
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Dorantes is a virtuoso pianist working the Spanish idiom including plenty of rhythmic Flamenco stylings. But his is a far more voracious appetite. Flamenco is thus merely a starting point just as it was for Renaud Garcia-Fons on Entremundo. With its densely orchestrated arrangements, Sur becomes an amalgam of Pat Metheny-esque string orchestra settings compliments of the Orquesta Sinfônica de Radio Sofia; circular Middle-Eastern motifs recalling Shadow fax-gone-soloist keyboardist Armen Chakmakian; Simon Shaheen/Qantara reminiscent desert scenes with overblown Bulgarian kaval flute mimicking Omar Faruk Tekbilek's soulful ney; and Sarah Brightman's Harem ambience without the offputting Pop-gloss pixie vocals.

There are lyrical mediations like "Ninez" that conjures up Rachmaninov improvising in a room in Jerez de la Frontera, windows open to the fragrance of lemon trees. There are swaggering Latin Jazz numbers like "Barrio Latino" that overlay pianists Chucho Valdez and Diego Amador into a Cuban/Spanish offspring with a bit of Keith Jarrett genes thrown in for good measure. There are high-octane plastique-in-a-bottle romps like "A Ritmo De Berza", apparently short-hand for "Rhythm Berserka" where solo piano joins palmas and Flamenco percussions for frenetic syncopations that transform the lyrical black'n'whites into a veritable drum kit.

"Caravana De Los Zincali" combines all of Sur's elements to act like its theme song or a romantic/heroic movie's closing credit music. There's symphonic sweep, soaring melodies, fiery rhythms, shifting orchestrations fit for an Ennio Morricone, solo Windham Hill interludes to catch one's breath. "Di, Di, Ana" is a classic deep-Sahara meditation such as Gerardo Nunez gave us on Calima. Except here center stage belongs to the piano, not guitar and vocals to Esperanza Fernandez, the only solo voice on Sur. The closing "De Pan Y Miel" is a bitter-sweet Jazz ballad whose bluesy notes allow Dorantes to tweak your soul and set you off a'dreaming.

From the first opening of string quartet and soprano sax, Sur signals top-caliber musicianship. The experienced listener knows to be in good hands right away, set to embark on a thrilling journey with a guide who owns all the highways and byways in the back of his hand. Like magic, he avoids the badly worn tourist spots, favoring instead out-of-the-way locales and winding back alleys to create a scintillating experience that captures every possible flavor of the Iberian milieu. Sur thus combines concert-hall and modern soundtrack chops with broad vision and easy access to build important bridges between different audiences and satisfy no matter how approached. That's a rare trick and deserves an enthusiastic award.