Click here to [close]

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Juan Pablo Carletti

Juan Pablo Carletti, Tony Malaby, Christopher Hoffman - Niño/Brujo (NoBusiness, 2015) ***½

Daniel Levin & Juan Pablo Carletti – Illusion of Truth (OutNow Recordings, 2015) ****

By Dan Sorrells

Lately, Argentinean drummer Juan Pablo Carletti’s star has been rising in NYC. He plays in a quartet led by Rob Brown, has a duo with inimitable cellist Daniel Levin, recently started a group with William Parker, and helms two versions of a trio that plays his own compositions: one with pianist Kris Davis, the other with sax-man Tony Malaby (cellist Christopher Hoffman features in both). He begins the year with two back-to-back releases: Niño/Brujo on NoBusiness (with the Malaby version of the trio), and Illusion of Truth on OutNow, which captures a duo performance with Daniel Levin.

The range of Carletti’s talents is in good showing. Niño/Brujo uses Carletti’s songwriting as a springboard, while Illusion of Truth works in a freer context. Though superficially different in sound, both are albums of balance—across these records are scales hanging in careful equilibrium between composition and improvisation, melody and texture, rhythm and freedom, sound and silence.

Carletti’s songs on Niño/Brujo are open, subtle tunes with tight melodies. Still, plenty of room is left for the performers, and the group seamlessly transitions from written material to improvisation and back. This is best exemplified by the long centerpiece "Lateral Thinking," which morphs between loose, free playing and sturdy rhythms (with Carletti simultaneously laying out the beat on the drums and playing the closing melodic theme on glockenspiel). Other tracks, such as opener “Miranda,” have a jaunty, film-music quality, a warm air of chamber music with just a pinch of Latin spice. Malaby is on full display in all his rough-edged glory, at times souring or splintering his tone to inject a little tension into the proceedings. On “Ballerina,” Carletti skillfully matches Hoffman’s line—a beautiful suggestion of melodic contours through expert maneuvering on the drum kit. In many ways, the music turns on Hoffman, whose cello is a compelling addition, at times carrying the bass line, then the melody, moving deftly between swinging jazz and a more classical sound.

But if Hoffman adds some straight-backed classicism to Niño/Brujo, Levin is all frayed horsehair on Illusion of Truth. Levin has always been an energizing player—his influence on playing partners is that of a jolt of electricity. Illusion of Truth is an hour-long performance from 2014, and even in its quietest moments there is an incredible focus conveyed through Levin’s playing, a focus that accounts for every tiny sound and micro-event without ever being mistaken for “lowercase” music. Carletti keeps pace, often quiet but always busy, rattling along with Lyttonesque abandon. It would be hard to imagine this music ever transcribed onto a staff—both players bring an intuitive technique that eschews the idea of music as arrangements of notes, suggesting instead a direct, synaptic expression of ideas and passion, an effortless extension of body and mind more like speaking or dancing.

With these two releases, it’s clear that Carletti is a versatile musician who surrounds himself with talent. Or—maybe a better way to look at it—talented musicians seem eager to seek Carletti out, and for good reason. Niño/Brujo and Illusion of Truth are both strong statements from a relatively new voice, one we’ll hopefully be hearing more of in the months and years to come.