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Saturday, November 11, 2023

Marcelo dos Reis & Luís Vicente - (Un)Prepared Pieces for Guitar and Trumpet (Cipsela, 2023)

By Stef Gijssels

The risk of getting to know musicians too well, is that you come to appreciate their music differently, possibly with less distance and with less sense of criticism. I've watched both Luis Vicente (trumpet) and Marcelo Dos Reis (guitar) perform several times in various ensembles and talked to them about their music, their tours, their concerts. 

I do not believe that this will hamper my judgment in saying that this record is exceptionally good. In the liner notes, Marcelo Dos Reis explains their long journey together in many ensembles - of which Chamber 4 is one of my favorites - and performed hundreds of concerts. 

This album showcases the result of a few days of residency in Coimbra, Portugal, resulting in new material, as well as spontaneous recordings. The result is a very intense, intimate and creative album, on which Dos Reis' singular guitar style - rhythmic, arpeggio-ed, with extended techniques - is perfectly matched with Vicente's deep and sad sound, exemplified in the gentle "Cornelia", in the video below. 

Other tracks are more adventurous and boundary-shifting, but always in a friendly and inventive way. This is something you have not heard before, yet it works, and it works well. The duo truly find their voice, with the guitar creating the more contextual setting of the piece, its repetitive nature, its hypnotic progress and the level of raw directness, while the trumpet adds the perfect counterbalance, with disciplined and lyrical phrasing, even in the more brutal moments of the music. Some pieces, such as "The Grey Car", are almost experimental, with an intro in which Vicente conjures up unheard sounds out of his trumpet, multiphonic with superpressured lips, gradually accompanied by fragmented bits of muted guitar strings, the tension is such that you - as the listener - keep being impressed by their mutual understanding and control. 

My favourite track is the one that bookends the album, "Climbing Up The Mountain", built around a single drone-like tone that serves as the backbone for the piece, and that thanks to its length also evolves into different sonic universes. 

Guitar and trumpet duos are relatively rare. We have reviewed only eighteen in the last sixteen years (Mazurek/Parker, Wooley/Morris, Tiner/Bagetta, Susana Santos Silva/Frith, Sei Miguel/Gomes, Robertson/Solborg, ...), and somehow the combination usually works, even if probably not an easy one. 

Both musicians on this album demonstrate their deep understanding of each other's musical power and artistic possibilities, resulting in improvisational power that is stunning, delivering something that is their very own personal sound, and the magic that was already present in several of their albums is even more strongly present here, from the first note to the last. 

Technical skills combined with solid interplay, fascinating musical ideas and explorations, a strong esthetic unity and deep feelings ... what more do you want? 

Listen and download from Bandcamp