By Colin Green
Rodrigo Amado first caught my attention on two albums as part of a trio with Kent Kessler (double-bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums): Teatro (European Echoes, 2006) and The Abstract Truth (European Echoes, 2009) A mature voice, full of character, I’ve followed his releases with growing interest. My enthusiasm was confirmed by his session with Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler and Chris Corsano, This Is Our Language, being voted our reviewers’ album of the year in 2015, in which year he also topped the tenor saxophone category of El Intruso’s International Critics Poll.
Amado’s Motion Trio consists of himself on tenor, Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini, drums. They often invite guests and their pair of albums on NoBusiness with Peter Evans (trumpet) – The Freedom Principle and Live in Lisbon – received much praise a couple of years ago. This is the first recording of the trio alone however, since their debut: Motion Trio (European Echoes, 2009). The track titles were inspired by the 1946 essay, Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword by Jack Parsons, a rocket propulsion engineer, occultist and one-time friend of L. Ron Hubbard. That liberty and responsibility are the sometimes conflicting consequences of freedom is something with which few would quibble, but whether all or part of the essay had a deeper influence on the music, I cannot say. I got along fine without it.
The immediately striking feature of the trio is Mira’s cello, played plucked throughout, higher in register and lighter in tone than the double-bass, making the frequent and rapid gear changes, glissandi and double-stops more prominent. Woven into this is the whiplash movement around Ferrandini’s fragile kit, with sizzling cymbals, staccato cracks, rim shot snaps and stuttering rolls. This mesh of cello and drums, a combination of the ductile and sharply transient, creates an energy field whose quivering surface never settles. Against this, Amado’s tenor is a stabilising force providing an equilibrium of sorts, and something which feels both spontaneous and integrated.
There’s a crispness and tonal control to Amado’s line, which unfolds according to its own momentum. Not one to embellish unnecessarily, since the trio’s first album his terseness of expression has if anything, become more pronounced: a concision which sometimes reduces his playing to a string of pecked plosives. It sounds as if each phrase is being scrutinised and given its due weight, the trajectory of each piece being modelled as a sculptor moulds clay, small additions and scraping away. The result is a tour de force of controlled intensity.
There are times when the presence of a fourth instrument would be welcome – Amado’s soliloquies might benefit from some contrasting dialogue – but if his previous outings appeal, proceed with confidence.
The album’s available on CD or as a download from Bandcamp.