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Thursday, March 1, 2018

José Lencastre Nau Quartet - Fragments Of Always ‎(FMR, 2017) ****

By Paul Acquaro

I'm a little late to break this news, but Jose Lencastre's Fragment of Always is a seriously good listen. The mid-2017 release captures a series of inspired improvisations ranging from quietly sublime to eruptively ecstatic. With half of the RED trio along, Hernani Faustino on bass and Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, and Lancastre's brother João on drums, the Nau Quartet knows when to breath fire and when to just breath.

The album starts on the lighter side, a scattering of notes from the piano, a patter of percussion, some distant honks from the sax. Slowly however the music begins to jell as loosely affiliated notes begin connecting and a group sound coalesces. The first six short tracks are all entitled ‘Aphorism 1 - 6’, and as the group slips seamlessly into the next track, 'Aphorism 2’, they begin to patiently climb a small summit with Lencastre leading the way with elongated and searching notes. Pinheiro’ piano kicks off ‘Aphorism 4', and rapidly covers a wide swath ground. His playing is bright and open and João responds kinetically in kind.

The title track stops me in my tracks each time: Lencastre's staccato phrasing and the jittery syncopation of the piano and drums paves the way for a frenetic burst of from the sax. The subsequent track 'Peculiar Landscapes' is a complete contrast to this previous jolt of energy. Starting with the click and clack of percussive shells, the track takes a patient path until other sounds begin to emerge. Slowly the drum kit replaces the percussion devices, and the sax, piano and drums together build, with long legato tones, to a brief peak, only to then fade out. This leads to the uptempo 'Dancing Snake'. Pinheiro and Lencastre chase each other up to the abyss, then let out a final squall of notes. The final track 'Axis Mundi' begins with Lencastre and Pinheiro feeling around the furthest edges, slowly gaining in confidence. Then Faustini, with a simple and effective bass line, shows the way while Joao's percussive prowess colors his brother’s lines and pushes the group to a quick ending.

Fragments of Always is an album that you can keep coming back to and find new sounds. Lencastre balances the truly-out with the accessibly-out, the passion with the intellect, and it all makes for one hell of a listen.