Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Attic - Summer Bummer (No Business, 2019) ****½

The Portugese trio The Attic was founded a few years ago - tenor sax player Rodrigo Amado, double bass player Gonçalo Almeida, and drummer Marco Franco. This trio recorded its self-titled, live debut at SMUP, Lisbon, in December 2015 (No Business, 2017). The sophomore album of The Attic was recorded again live at the Summer Bummer Festival, Antwerp, Belgium in August 2018, and it also was the first performance of Amado and Almeida with Dutch drummer Onno Govaert, who replaced Franco. Govaert is known from the group Cactus Truck and his work with pianist Kaja Draksler and guitarist Terrie Hessels.

The artwork of Summer Bummer's cover, a painting by Amado’s father, the famous painter Manuel Amado (whose paintings were used before on other recordings of Amado) suggests a relaxed, breezy atmosphere. Fortunately, there is nothing leisured in the music of The Attic. The live settings, naturally, sharpness the free-improv aesthetics of this trio and the art of the moment, obviously, demands intensity and urgency. But, The Attic is more focused on the collective, quite calm manners in which the hard-working and strong-minded Amado, Almeida and Govaert stimulate each other, negotiate, contemplate and even meditate about building tension, flow, control and form. The Attic never subscribe to common structures or stock rhythmic solutions but evolves its powerful momentum organically, always expanding its palette of expressive colors and subtle rhythmic nuances. Guy Peters, who experienced The Attic live and wrote the liner notes to Summer Bummer, describes The Attic true essence as its capacity to shape intriguing sounds and motions into “something extraordinary… transcends itself and turns into an act of storytelling”.

You may begin to decipher the meaning of the stories of The Attic already on the first piece “Walking Metamorphosis,” credited to the three musicians, as also the other two pieces. Amado, as always, has a warm, big and tough sound of his own and is gifted with natural, captivating charisma. Here, he sounds likes he is adopting the approach of his close collaborator Joe McPhee, who plays in his quartet, and opts for a more reserved, but deeply poetic approach. He patiently sketches and intensifies his statements until the inevitable climaxes, while staying attuned to every nuance of Almeida's and Govaert's playing. Almeida propels his ideas with creative, aggressive tones while Govaert offers contrasting dynamics to both Amado and Almeida. The intimate and lyrical opening of “Free For All” cements that emphatic vibe, but the last piece, “Aimless At The Beach”, is clearly the most compelling and beautiful one. Amado plays here with great restraint but with a deep, soulful voice while keeping a detailed, conversational interplay.

Great trio!

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