Esteban Alvarez – Tico Groove

Album Release | Self Release | Review by Liam Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

With his album Tico Groove, Costa Rican pianist Esteban Alvarez has served up an especially nourishing dish. The Steinway Artist nominee and Akademia Award-winning composer invites us in for a notably intimate performance of ten seductive instrumentals, each infused with Latin flavours that may equally settle relaxingly on the ear or insist upon a dance. The urge to get up and oil one’s hips is never stronger than on tracks such as the uplifting “Caballito Nicoyano/Ticas Lindas”, featuring some fiery flamenco guitar from Jose Manuel Tejeda and the infectious rhythms of percussionist Ignacio Berroa, as well as the charmingly buoyant “Pasión”, featuring the supple clarinet of Dr. Richard Shanley and his wife, Hellen, on flute. Resting, for the most part, on the dependably lithe double basslines of Lynn Seaton, Tico Groove is an album on which Alvarez’s searching and perpetually inquisitive piano is just one of the multitude of fine flavours. And whilst the dish is at its most tasty during the full-band performances, the arresting solo piano piece “Amor de Temporada” reminds us who’s head chef and where we should be directing our compliments.