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Friday, September 15, 2017

Chamber 4 – City of Light  (Clean Feed, 2017) ****½

By Tom Burris

It is nearly impossible to listen to Chamber 4 and take notes at the same time.  I get drawn in so easily and completely that I simply lose the ability to keep the one-foot-in-reality it requires to notate what is happening.  There are worse things than losing the details of a great listening experience while retaining the overall impressions.  And when it comes to Chamber 4, the overall experience is kinda the whole point.  I don’t even want to go back and dissect the parts that make up the whole of the music and figure out what makes it work.  Sure, some of that is laziness – but most of it is I wanna believe in magic and what’s wrong with that?!?

As this blog’s founder says of the group in the liner notes, “they move as one.”  Individually, I’m aware that the sounds of the Ceccaldi brothers (Theo, violin & Valentin, cello) as they lure me into their velvet lair; but once they’ve caught me all of the details are gone.  This happens again as I’m going back for another attempt, sure that I’ll remain fully aware of any and all details and failing miserably.  (I said I want to believe in magic; I didn’t say I actually did.)  Luis Vicente’s melodic buzzing and busy trumpet calls stand out periodically, but only as a reminder that I’ve been missing out on what he’s been doing in the background before I noticed his horn.  The guitar work of Marcelo Dos Reis, while always a marvel, is made even more so by his ability to blend into the mechanics of the band.  And I can even share a detail here as well: Marcelo isn’t afraid to turn the guitar into a one-man rhythm section.

A real standout characteristic of the band is that they show absolutely no avoidance of conventional beauty.  And why is conventional beauty so frequently side-stepped in free music?  If this wasn’t so roundly excluded, would improvisational music be more attractive to the uninitiated?  Would my wife like Chamber 4 better than Ballister?  City of Light is a work that is in constant motion, breaking apart and reforming in new and surprising patterns, folding in and over on itself.  It’s incredible how easy it is to listen to this music move in waves and patterns that exude a type of beauty that starts in the conventional, ties into the unconventional, and magnifies it to the point of obviousness.

See also Rick Joines' review here.