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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sounds from Portugal

By Paul Acquaro

Since the blog will be heading to Jazz em Agosto this week and reporting back on the happenings, we thought we could seize the opportunity and over the next few days to document some of the music coming out of the fertile musical scene in Portugal. Today is a mixed bag of albums that have captured my attention, and tomorrow, coinciding with the first day of the festival, Stuart Broomer focuses on several new recordings from Lisbon based musicians.

João Lencastre's Communion 3 - Song(s) of Hope (Clean Feed, 2019) ****

Can I make up for late reviews by being a bit premature? Not sure it evens out, but I didn't want to wait, so after finally reviewing Jose Lencastre's latest album, I jumped right to his brother's upcoming album. So, here is what I need you to do: bookmark this review and come back in a month, reread it, and be inspired to buy the album.

Peercussionist João Lencastre's Song(s) of Hope invies two New York based musicians, pianist Jakob Sacks and bassist Eivind Opsvik, for a piano trio album that runs the gamut from the fiery spiritual to the gently sanguine. It's an inspired recording that, in Lencastre's words is "Cecil Taylor meets Morton Feldman meets “popish” epic themes, meets analogue synth frequency explorations."

The opening with the 10 minute "Long Long Way", begins with Sack's piano rumbling in the mid register with short arpeggios darting forth. A deliberate melodic figure, minimal but stately, changes the texture, and Lencastre's drumming plays an equal role in the presentation. Soon we hear Opvick's bass sliding up against the piano, forming new tonal shapes. The nearly ten-minute track builds towards a dramatic climax, a mix of classical motifs and eddying percussion. The follow up "Magnetic Frequency I" begins much differently as Sacks sprinkles notes in somewhat disparate phrases. It's a short track and there are a total four of these interspersed on the album, III and IV seem to respectively to feature Opsvick and Lencastre. The title track however is a real highlight of the album. Starting with fraught but luscious chords, the scene opens on a beautiful but threatened soundscape. How it will progress remains to be seen, as the buried tension in the chord voicings foreshadows almost any outcome. Song(s) of Hope is a work of inquisitiveness and openendedness.

Patrick Brennan & Abdul Moimême - Terraphonia (Creative Sources, 2019) ****

An absolutely unique album that finds two creative musicians finding new ways to communicate. Lisbon's Abdul Moimême expresses himself through prepared guitar as he duets with the expansively thinking New York based saxophonist Patrick Brennan. In the first and title track, the two pull, push, strike, and blow any number of sounds from their instruments, but not without purpose. Each sound compliments the next, or the former, or even something yet to happen. It could be the distant amplified thump against the body of Moimême's guitar, to which Brennan reacts with short swirling lines, or the quiet squeak of the woodwind underscored by slashes of near white noise from the guitar.

This is hard to define music, but even when the harshest tones are at play, the duo presents them with care and precision. Brennan compliments Moimême's sudden tonal attacks with quickly formed ideas, while Moimême fills the silences that the saxophonist's leave with unexpected sounds. The track 'gotabrilhar' stands out, the short track, mid-album, features a buzzing-bee sax and a darkly lit landscape painted by a droning and moaning guitar. 

Peixe Frito- Jazz From Here (Last Pork Records, 2018) ****

So, heading back in release date time, this gem featuring woodwind player Paulo Chagas deserves some listening attention. It's a mix of free jazz, avant-rock, with some noise in between.  The group is Chagas, Luís Guerreiro on trumpet and electronics, Paulo Duarte on electric guitar, Alvaro Rosso on bass, and Pedro Santo on drums. The opening "Coltrane's back scratcher" could, I suppose, be something the saxophone giant used to satisfy a hard to reach itch, but more concretely, it's a fine improvised party of flute, sax, guitar and electronics. The track "Short run I" is a quieter, exploratory track, with overtone heavy reeds, shimmery guitar, and insistent percussion. The centerpiece of the album though may be "My neighbors psychedelic gathering" which, while also exploratory for a good portion of it's eight minute existence, features incisive trumpet playing from Guerreiro, sweeping guitar chords, and arrhythmic drumming. This track though may be overshadowed by the 12 minute "Swing from the zone", which has some of the same ingredients but over a more insistent pulse, eventually leading to some fiery freak outs and satisfyingly solid rocky stuff.