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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rodrigo Amado / Joe McPhee / Kent Kessler / Chris Corsano - A History of Nothing (Trost, 2018) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

The title of the second album of Portuguese-American quartet led by tenor sax player Rodrigo Amado - featuring legendary Joe McPhee, on pocket trumpet and the soprano sax, double bass player Kent Kessler, and drummer Chris Corsano - is inspired by the words of Portuguese activist-dissident, singer-songwriter José Mário Branco: “We have to start all over again, once more, and start from what is near, from what is below, on the ground. It's much more a process drawn from biological and animal issues, from survival, from fear, from pleasure, from primal concerns”.

Branco’s revolutionary perspective reflects Amado own view of jazz history and legacy, as an artistic aesthetic - a language or a message of resistance; an art that seeks to create itself anew, again and again. Art that focuses on a highly personal approach of the here and now. Trusting the primal instincts of the musician, his rhythmic impulses, his personal sound and drive, part him and part history. But essentially an art that suggests a better world, a better history. The Nothing, as Branco said, or as in the Buddhist concept of nothingness, means a new, independent and personal history, one of a great hope and beauty. A History of Nothing offers a set of five beautiful musical stories-histories. It deepens the quartet journey that has began on This Is Our Language (Not Two, 2015), and captures five pieces - credited to all four musicians - recorded in Lisbon in a one day session in March 2017, following a European tour.

The sense of story/history is stressed by the conversational-democratic mode of the quartet. The main credit may go to Amado who initiated this quartet and organized its tours but on stage or in studio all are equal partners. The meeting of the incomparable historic background and the poetic language of McPhee, the power as well as the lyricism of Amado, the free-shifting, deep tones of Kessler bass and the restless pulse of Corsano, each with his own personal legacy, as articulated on the opening “Legacies”, is what makes this quartet so special.

And, A History of Nothing has few distinct stories. The extended, fiery title piece establishes the quartet immediate interplay. Not as a history of nothing, but as a history of all, of the here and now, urgent and passionate, serious as your life. Kessler and Corsano weave delicate rhythmic patterns on “Theory of Mind”, pushing Amado to sketch his own emotionally-charged textures. “Wild Flowers” is the most poetic piece, beginning with McPhee whispering-talking-singing through his pocket trumpet while dancing with Corsano and Kessler. Amado’s sax expands this busy, joyful talk with touches of irony and humor, before all gravitate into a driving pulse. The last, “The Hidden Desert” adds a mysterious story, patiently and gently coloring an imaginative, peaceful journey into beautiful, uncharted terrains, that only this quartet’s histories/stories describe it.