Every once in a while a musician comes out of nowhere with such a fully formed sound and vision, you wonder why you haven't heard of him before. Of course that "nowhere" often includes years of study at an excellent school like Berklee College of Music in Boston. And, in the case of stellar guitarist Fernando Ulibarri, it also includes a master's degree in jazz performance from Florida International University. Ulibarri, who now teaches at Broward College in Florida, has just released "Transform," a debut album that is bound to do just that to his career.
Originally from Costa Rica, Ulibarri not only possesses a gorgeous tone to go along with his lightning-fast runs, he also has a knack for compelling composition that ranges from the delicate beauty of "Paisajes" and "The Fire Will Burn Us Both" to the up-tempo drive of the title tune, "Transform – Prelude" and the unpredictability of it's more abstract counterpart, "Transform – Deconstructed." Ulibarri's band-mates, equally unknown to me until now, are also clearly destined for distinguished careers. Pianist Jim Gasior has a fluid style on piano and other keyboards that nicely complements Ulibarri's solo flights. Rounding out the quartet, bassist Josh Allen and drummer John Yarling are simply flawless at every turn and, to Ulibarri's credit, there is no shortage of surprising twists and turns on "Transform."