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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Alipio C. Neto Quartet - The Perfume Comes Before The Flower (Clean Feed, 2007) ****

Here's another stunning free jazz album. Trumpeter Herb Robertson and bass player Ken Filiano are obviously well-known names, saxophonist Alipio C Neto is probably less known, although he's one of the driving forces behind the IMI Kollektief and Wishful Thinking. Neto is a Brazilian who moved to Portugal to have a doctorate in literature, yet who stayed in the country and started seriously engaging himself in music. The quartet is completed by Michael TA Thompson on drums, and Ben Stap joins on tuba on three of the five tracks.

Apparently Neto's credo is that "music must always be transcendental", and that's clear from the very first sounds of the record. High tempo drumming introduces very slow sax tones and arco bass, with absolutely frantic trumpet soloing by Robertson, creating a feeling of wide expanses and deep emotional contrasts, and then suddenly all sounds converge into a totally unexpected unisono melody that shifts a few seconds later into Filiano's well-known incredibly precise and adventurous bowing, with an hesitant, yet strong sax solo by Neto, and he is absolutely excellent in his playing: raw yet soft and warm-toned at the same time. Then the sax becomes the frantic voice, while Robertson takes over the slow background on trumpet. It's clever, it's fun, it's ingenious. "The Will - Nasarana" starts with a long bass solo, and when you think it's high time to turn up the volume, the three other musicians start playing a joyful abstract melody, which shifts into free bop of the best kind, with both horn players demonstrating their best skills. And I must say that on many records Robertson goes beyond what I find bearable, but not here : his playing is more accessible than we've heard in many years, and it is truly great. The most beautiful track however is "The Flower - Aboio", which is a slow, minor key, bluesy composition, starting with layers of similar sounds by all musicians, evolving into a tear-drenched, funeral-march-like mood, with all instruments wailing and weeping, incredibly intense, incredibly sad, incredibly beautiful. Bengt Berger's "Bitter Funeral Beer" comes to mind when listening to this song, and that's a great compliment. Stap's inclusion on this track is a stroke of genius, because the dark tones, even when playing in the upper register add an intensity and coloring which moves the song to even greater heights. The fourth track is a structured free jazz work-out where all musicians let loose the tension and go for it, and the last one continues in the same vein, but adding a lightly dancing joy to the music. Again, a great record, because of the great musicianship, but also because of the great balance between compositions and improvization. Get it!

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