Sanchez's experience composing the Birdman score was heavily influential on the cinematic scope of The Meridian Suite, his fifth album as leader on Italian label CAM JAZZ. "The movie is basically one long continuous shot", he explains, referring to the film's illusion of being shot in a single take as it follows Michael Keaton through his Broadway breakdown. "That's also what I wanted to do with this suite; to the listener it should be seamless". The suite takes full advantage of the versatility and wide-ranging palette of Migration, the quartet that Sanchez has led since 2011. Tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake doubles on Electric Wind Instrument (EWI), John Escreet on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Matt Brewer on both acoustic and electric bass. Sanchez also layered keyboard atmospherics onto the album in post-production along with a wide array of guitars from Adam Rogers, while singer Thana Alexa contributes soaring lyrics to the second movement, "Imaginary Lines", and coloristic wordless vocals elsewhere. The seed of the suite was planted while Sanchez was on tour with Metheny in Meridian, Mississippi in 2012. The title was originally a makeshift file name, but took on greater meaning as Sanchez began to research the idea of meridians, imaginary lines that circle the globe, the celestial sphere, or, in some new age conceptions, the body's energy field. "You have meridians that cross the earth, that cross the sky, that cross our bodies and our minds, and I started getting fascinated by the way meridians interact in all those different shapes and forms", Sanchez says. "So I thought it was a very good analogy for the way the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic aspects of this composition intertwine, interact and meet over the course of the whole piece". The scale of the suite derived from Sanchez's determination not to place limits on his compositional imagination. "One of the things that turns me off the most as a composer is that as soon as you start developing, you have to start thinking of ways of how to wrap it up because you don't want a tune to be longer than six or seven minutes. I hate to feel that I'm limited by time instead of just following my instincts". With motifs, phrases and concepts that recur and transform throughout the piece's five movements, The Meridian Suite is a thrillingly adventurous achievement that absorbs influences from modern rock, free form improvisation and electronic music into a forward-looking jazz masterwork. "I took a lot of liberties and let a lot of my musical influences come through in a very unapologetic way", the composer says. The Meridian Suite marks the high point thus far for a career that continues to climb and serves to reinforce Antonio Sanchez's place at the forefront of modern jazz-breaking boundaries as a virtuoso drummer, a visionary composer, and a truly inspired musical thinker.
Recorded in New York on 15, 16, 17 December 2014 at Avatar Studios and mixed on 18, 19 February 2015 at PJF Music Studio
Recording & mixing engineer Pete Karam
Photos by Andrea Boccalini
Liner notes by Antonio Sanchez