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Friday, December 20, 2019

Marcelo dos Reis, Valentin Ceccaldi, Marco Franco & Luís Vicente - Points (Multikulti, 2019) ****½

By Stef

When guitarist Marcelo dos Reis and trumpet-player Luis Vicente meet, magic happens, and especially in their collaborations with the French brothers Ceccaldi, with Theo on violin and Valentin on cello in the successful "Chamber 4" ensemble.

For this quartet, the violin is replaced by the drums of Marco Franco, another Portuguese musician best known from his collaborations in "The Attic", a trio with Rodrigo Amado and Gonçalo Almeida. Or you could also call it the "Deux Maisons" ensemble in which Theo Ceccaldi is replaced by Marcelo dos Reis.

Needless to say these musicians 'feel' each other, understanding music without the need to prepare too much, as they can move the sound forward propulsed by its own energy and self-creating sonorities and texture. In contrast to the percussion-less ensemble, the sound here is much more granular, more gritty and raw. Yet the approach is the same: a few repetitive rhythms, often by the guitar, arpeggio-ed or hammered on the strings design a basis for the other instruments to add layers to, often unpredictable, and at the same time coarse and refined, wild and controlled.

All four instruments are at times reduced to something else, and sounds reduced to dots, to pointillistic points that make up an abstract canvas that presents a coherent yet hard to grasp picture. We recognise some of the influences of recent French music by Theo Ceccaldi or drummer Sylvain Darrifourq, in which rapid-fire precision creates its own energy (listen to Franco's galloping sounds on the drums). And part of the magic is that despite this rawness, each instrument manages to present its counterpart: the passionate tones of the trumpet, the melancholy bows on the cello, gentle soloing on the acoustic guitar, all find themselves in different spaces creating a sound that is somehow in conflict yet coherent too, slow and fast, dark and light, nervous agitation and calm delivery. Often it sounds like life itself, ranging from the fearful cries of unknown animals in the dark to the harshness of mechanical noise, but with a core of humanity in between, an oscillation between surprise and determination, opening up like a beautiful flower on the last piece, called "Endpoint".

Their open and wayward approach to sound allows them to be inventive at any time, without any constraints or limits, apart from staying in a conceptual harmony with the rest of the ensemble. It are the contridictions that make it attractive to keep listening to, as well as the core of its aesthetic, unmistakably inimitably theirs. Fascinating.


FreeJazzJeff said...

Another eloquent review, Stef.....

Dos Reis, Vicente, the Ceccaldis: these musicians are some of the most adventurous and exciting
playing on the planet today, and (as I usually state at this point) I wish North Americans over here on my
continent would both wake up and warm up to their talent.

I'm looking forward to getting my talons on this release.... perhaps in my stocking?

Lee said...

Cosign the above sentiment. Sadly, the relative absence of coverage in the US of international artists means these experts don’t get the press they should. As Stef says, when these players meet, the music is magical. They are so talented and creative.