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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Marcelo dos Reis - FLORA (JACC, 2023)

By Paul Acquaro

Is this the album from Marcelo dos Reis that I had been hoping to hear or is it one that I had never expected to hear? After all, the Portuguese guitarist is a masterful player who weaves experimental lines with melodic results, and sharp tonal clusters with harmonic sophistication - for example, his recent duo release with trumpeter Luis Vincente is an exercise in restraint and edgy melodicism, and the quartet Turquoise Dreams works a delicate atonal experimentalism. However on FLORA, dos Reis is in full on power trio mode, which is both a surprising move and absolute aural treat.

Along with dos Reis are bassist Miguel Falcão and drummer Luís Filipe Silva, both also from the pulsating Coimbra jazz scene, and together the three make an unadorned instrumental avant-rock that brings to mind contemporaries like Bushman's Revenge and Nick Millevoi's Desertion Trio and others who keep one foot in the complexities of the jazz world and the other kicking over amplifiers in the rock one. Ok, that's a bit of hyperbole, but I'm letting it stand.

FLORA's opening track 'Big Tee' lurches to life with an off-kilter riff from the guitarist and a tumble of drums before the groove kicks in. A catchy melody is interspersed with a needling chorus before getting into a tangled bridge and finally a fleet-fingered guitar solo. The following tune, 'Amanita', is much more ethereal, the mood is a tad gloomy, vaguely threatening even, as the sustained notes drip slowly from above. The segue to 'Tampanesis' is seamless and flips the switch from lugubrious restraint to fist-shaking aggression. No matter how assertive the music get though, there is no loss of finesse or agility - unexpected chords and sudden rhythmic breaks keeps the music lively and engaging. The rough-hewn beauty of the previous track then turns to a triumphant one in the following 'Cornelia' before exploding into shards of sounds. Finally, the track 'Full Sun' offers a gentle respite with a minimalist descending melody stretching out in 3/4 time.

The interactions between the trio suggest a great deal of structure to the music, but without it impeding the improvisational elasticity. FLORA is a excellent recording, it is atmospheric and power, raucous and sensitive, and one that seems to meet all my guitar driven power trio needs in one surprising development.


Alen said...

Great review, glad to see this album is getting recognition it justly deserves, it's one of the most impressive records I heard lately.

Adri said...

Definitely one of the records of the year.

Lee said...

Great review! Super album, I've been listening to it nonstop.