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Monday, July 29, 2019

Jose Lencastre Nau Quartet- Eudimonia (FMR, 2018) ****

This is a fantastic album, and for nearly the past year it has been stuck in rotation on my playlist. Like the Nau Quartet's 2017 recording, Fragments of Always, Lencastre's Eudimonia continues in sharing refined and exploratory musical vision with the help of the RED Trio's pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro and bassist Hernâni Faustino, as well as the saxophonist's brother, drummer João Lencastre.

According to the great and all-knowing Wikipedia, the 'eudaimonia' "is an abstract noun derived from eu meaning 'well' and daimon (daemon), which refers to a minor deity or a guardian spirit. Eudaimonia implies a positive and divine state of being that humanity is able to strive toward and possibly reach."

So, considering this a well meaning daemon, I think, is quite on point. Track one, "Eu", begins slowly, like something awakening. Barely audible at first, it rouses slowly and patiently, until the halfway mark, when it suddenly stops and reconsiders its progress. With polyphonic blows from the sax and light sound effects from the others, the group rises from the sonic bed, and led by the exploratory probing by Lancastre, begins shaping the environment.

The next track, "Da" (the tracks spell out the album's title) begins with the urgent pulsating tempo and through some expert tension building from Pinheiro and Faustino. However, it's on "I" where the fireworks start. The track in the middle of the album contains a blast of color and sound from the saxophonist and expert support from the group. João Lencastre shines here with an understated impulse. The group pulls back on "Mo", and the piano is front and center with a melodic swirl. The bass and sax take over, further agitating the swirl, until with the help of percussive accents and driving fills, takes the track to a new energetic high point. The track "Ni" is another flash point. Beginning with the bass, it has elements of classic free jazz and a tuneful center that later lets go for some more brazen explorations. Finally "A" fittingly closes the album with a succinct 3 minute summary of everything that came before. 

So, eudaimonia is something we are dearly in need of these days as the demons of awfulness and brazen cruelty seem to taking over.  If the music on this album could somehow transcend the aural and become the leadership, I know our world would be a much better place.