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Sunday, July 18, 2021

Garfo - Garfo (Clean Feed, 2021) ****

Last week, we celebrated Portuguese musicians for a whole week, including the 20th anniversary of Clean Feed, the label that gave so many artists global exposure. 

With Garfo, the label offers a quartet of young musicians their chance to become better known. 

The band consists of 21-year old Bernardo Tinoco on tenor saxophone, 24-year old João Almeida on trumpet, 26-year old João Fragoso on double bass, and 30-year old João Sousa on drums. 

All four have been properly trained in jazz, and this at the various prominent initiatives that exist in Lisbon. There is the Hot Clube de Portugal, a jazz club for which bassist Zé Eduardo created a jazz school, to allow young talent to get on stage and perform, and a jazz orchestra in which Almeida played. There is the Lisbon Jazz Summer School, founded in 2008, that teaches young musicians to perfect their art, and which resulted in the Big Band Junior, created in 2010, as a real band for youngsters between 12 and 17. Bernardo Tinoco was member of this band until a few years ago, and João Fragoso its secretary and assistant. 

On Garfo, they show their skills on ten composed/improvised pieces. The quartet manages well to show that they are master of the jazz tradition, with strong interplay and tight arrangements, in combination with some fiercer interaction once in a while. There are moments - such as on 'Ciclo' - when you hear the smokey jazz clubs of the 1950s, with Tinoco's warm tenor bringing us back in time, generous with his feelings and skills. Other pieces are more playful and upbeat, demonstrating the quartet's rhythmic power, as on "T". Other tracks, such as "Oito", are more solemn and subdued, with beatiful arco bass leading a great theme by the horns, and interestingly enough composed by João Sousa who's absent on the track. On "Alderpoint", Almeida and Sousa drive a more adventurous exploratory kind of music. 

The ten pieces are often themselves full of variation and shifting ideas and structures. The quality of the playing is excellent, as are the arrangements. The quartet show their instrumental skills and stylistic versatility. This album is a great start in taking the first step. Their voice today is still a great mixture of possibilities which requires a deeper choice. If they want to be great, which I'm sure they can, they will have to be less compromising, and go beyond the expectations. 

As it stands, it's more than worth listening to. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Watch them perform on Youtube: