Artist : David Mengual Free Spirits Big Band
Release Date : September 22, 2014
Label : Bebyne
Format : CD

Recorded by Toni París at Estudis 44.1, Girona, on May 2014
Mixed & mastered by Toni Vaquer & David Mengual at Estudis Polidor, Barcelona, on June 2014
Photography & design: Carles Roche
Produced by David Mengual


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Double length album, 32 songs by David Mengual, Toni Vaquer, Jordi Mestres, Oriol Roca, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

From mystery and elusiveness to an epic sense of celebration, from intimism to impressionism, David Mengual Free Spirits Big Band’s last work, Vertebrats, is a musical and visual trip of shared sounds. Built from small compositions, originals and versions, the trip converges in 6 suites born in the mind of Toni Vaquer. Vertebrats is anything but an empty name: it reminds us of a need of adaptation, of evolution, which is also a need to leave a trace, paleontological or discographical, from a body of work made by two symmetrical parts -in a certain way, this is what these suites really are. This need of evolution has become visible in live performances of the Big Band, where Julietee Louste’s dance & choreography found a fertile terrain to grow.


  • Alvar Monfort, Natsuko Sugao: trumpet and flugelhorn
  • Ivan Gonzalez: trumpet and French horn; Conducting in “Las crónicas de Saturno”
  • Joan Mas: alto sax
  • Miguel “Pintxo” Villar: alto and soprano sax
  • Gonzalo Levin: tenor sax and flute
  • Juan Saiz: flute (suites 3,5 and Toni Melassa)
  • Aram Montagut, Dario Garcia: trombone
  • Amaiur Gonzalez: tuba
  • Enric Peinado: guitar, cavaquinho
  • Lina Lomanto, Toni Vaquer: piano and Hammond
  • Alex Reviriego: double bass
  • Josema Martín, Oriol Roca: drums and percussion
  • Roser Farré, Maria Ibáñez: violin
  • Alicia Domínguez: viola
  • Margarida Mariño: cello
  • Marcel.lí Bayer, Jordi Santanach: clarinet
  • Pau Domenech: bass clarinet
  • Alfonso Fernandez Vargas: bassoon





Vertrebrats awarded for Best Jazz Album of the Year by Enderrock magazine (December 2014)


Another thrilling session from Mengual, who always seems to make the motions of huge liftoffs and exquisite soaring a part of every one of his recordings. His newest features a series of different suites and performed by different ensembles, and the way they shift from a chamber elegance to a bop liveliness to a jazz-rock burn is a terrific series of events to follow along with. Some familiar names to this column are a part of Mengual’s group, including drummer Oriol Roca, trumpet Natsuko Sugao, saxophonist Gonzalo Levin, and clarinetists Marcel li Bayer and Pau Domenench. A good idea to go exploring Mengual’s discography, and this one is a good place to start. Dave Summer, Wondering Sound (September 2014)


I’ve always had a thing for the music of David Mengual.  The term “free spirits” is very applicable to his music.  No matter the size of the ensemble, it possesses a lightness and a flowing motion that I always take to.  His newest, Vertebrats, an album that incorporates both an octet and big band formation, holds true to form.  Consisting of six different suites that all snap neatly into place, Mengual displays his ability to convey an orchestral grace to music with a pop music sensibility.  With pianist Toni Vaquer given the role of arranger and, in some instances, composer, the David Mengual Free Spirits Big Band eases its way through 32 tunes, originals and interpretations, short pieces and extended, and covering the expanse of jazz, rock, and classical. The album opens with the eminent grace of “Canicas,” “En Patufet i sa lletuga” and “L’Ira del Bosc.”  All short pieces that have a lightness and flowing motion that accentuates a humble beauty.  It’s a quality that I associate most often with Mengual’s music. Not uncommon are the dramatic shifts into a sense of urgency.  This happens here with fourth track “El Resumen,” which signals the beginning of surges of intensity, bouts of dissonance and thick introspective drifts. The ensemble shifts into a new gear, starting with “Dimonis fent foguerons.”  They retain much of the intensity developed in the previous section, but now come together and focus on patient, lovely expressions of melody while taking the care to wrap them up carefully in thick, warm harmonies.  There’s no less drama than the previous section… it just coalesces where the previous section dispersed or collided. After a short interlude of a straight-ahead jazz tune (“Plaga de ratas siguiendo a flautista enfermo”) and one more of the free variety (“Las crónicas de Saturno”), the album settles back into one of orchestral grace.  And, then, typical of Mengual’s sense of adventure, this ensemble begins a medley of classic rock tunes from Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles, before ending the album with the New Orleans inspired “Himne.” Fun moments, beautiful moments, both, to be discovered on this enjoyable recording.  Go check it out. Dave Summer, Bird is the Worm (January 2015)


This is a bit of a monster. The David Mengual Free Spirits Big Band is a big Big Band—27 musicians—with impressive musical scope, mixing improvisation with written charts, original pieces with tunes by some of the best known and most respected composers of the last 300 years. Vertebrats is the band’s third album—a richly varied, ambitious recording. There’s almost 90 minutes of music across these two CDs. It’s organised into a series of six suites each of four to eight distinct tracks with individual tracks generally lasting for less than four minutes. Mengual, a Barcelona-based musician and educator, is the musical director, but arranger and pianist Toni Vaquer takes the vast majority of the writing credits.
Opening tune “Canicas” is a pretty, warm, composition featuring the horn section in aGil Evans-like arrangement. By “El Resumen” the tempo and the tension has racked up: the emphasis remains on the horns but the dominance of the lower-register instruments beefs up the rhythm and the power.
The brief Suite No. 2 begins in more contemporary territory, with an altogether freer and more angular style showcased on “La Colonia de Formigues.” The rest of the suite is calmer, combining warm, soft-toned horn parts with Vaquer’s contrastingly brighter piano. The mood continues into the opening tunes of Suite No. 3, although things move up-tempo with the drive of “Climbing The Robles Peak.” Mengual’s “Toni Melassa” features The Octet: the (relatively) small band feel of the tune contrasts appealingly with the full-on sound of the Big Band. These early moods are repeated through Suites 4 and 5. “Plaga de Ratas Siguendo a Flautista Enfermo” is another up-tempo tune, one of the most immediately enjoyable pieces on the album as Vaquer’s piano evokes the darting and scratching of the titular rats. The energetic, prog-like “Las Cronicas de Saturno” hints at things to come in the final suite, “Free Spirits Groove” makes it clear that the band can deliver a danceable rhythm when called for. The band’s left-field side is showcased on the pretty “Teo,” which features the always welcome squeaky toys as well as the voice of an excited infant (presumably Teo?). Following on from the original compositions of the preceding five suites, “Suite No. 6″ doesn’t quite work out. It’s the Free Spirits Big Band’s take on some classic rock—includingLed Zeppelin‘s “Black Dog” and “Heartbreaker” and Jimi Hendrix‘ “Little Wing.” The band certainly compete on volume with the originals (Enric Reinado lays down suitably heavy guitar on “Heartbreaker” and tuba player Amaiur Gonzalez brings a new harmonic and rhythmical approach to “Hey Joe”), but it lacks the punch of those classic rock bands—and the vocal talents of Robert Plant or Hendrix. In the company of these rockers Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Bouree en Mi Mineur” might seem out of place, but there’s a version of this to be found on Jethro Tull‘s Stand Up (Island Records, 1969) and of all the parts of this suite it’s the one that best fits Vertebrats as a whole. Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz (January 2015)

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