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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rodrigo Amado - Teatro (European Echoes, 2006) ****

The Portugese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado seems to replace Ken Vandermark in this trio with Kent Kessler on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Vandermark played often enough with both of them in all possible line-ups and group configurations. Amado is also the sax-player in The Lisbon Improvisation Players, a Portuguese jazz band, with which Denis Gonzalez also made several performances. Amado is a different sax player than Vandermark, a little softer, more searching, more melodious, a little less energetic (but who isn't). The power of this band is that they create music, varying between hesitating and intense, calming each other, encouraging each other, propulsing each other to peaks, but without losing the focus, and with sufficient variation in the way they play their instruments to keep things fresh and exciting, even on the two longer pieces. The second of those, Pandora's Box, starts slow and searching, yet evolves into a rhythmic party full of intensity and musical joy, a piece in which both Kessler and Nilssen-Love get ample space for soloing. On the title song Kessler plays arco, Amado his baritone sax, and together they start the most abstract piece of the album, with the drums adding light touches and accents. This is no blowing fest, but very restrained, elegant and relatively accessible free jazz by three exceptional musicians. Highly recommended.