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Saturday, February 3, 2024

Alma Tree - Sonic Alchemy Suprema (Carimbo Porta-Jazz, 2024)

By Paul Acquaro

If drummer and legend Rakalam Bob Moses calls you out on social media as one of the "great, extraordinarily creative, visionary drummer/percussionists from all over the globe," it makes sense to heed the call. See it as the universe calling. After all, Moses did play with Pat Metheny, Paul Bley, Steve Swallow, Gary Burton and Dave Liebman, among many others and his percussion work is a defining element on seminal albums of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Fortunately, Lisbon based, listed, drummer Pedro Melo Alves, who made the list, heard the message, got in touch, and also introduced Memphis based Moses to another exceptional percussionist from Barcelona based, Vasco Trilla, and the connection was made, eventually leaping from cyber space to the real world.

First, Trilla and Moses collaborated virtually during the pandemic, sending files of their playing to each other and developing the release Singing Icons (Astral Spirits, 2023). Then, meeting up in 2022, the three percussionists played a series of dates in Portugal, followed by a trip into the studio. Sonic Alchemy Suprema, the result of this spirited meeting, finds the percussionists immersed in a complete sound-world, drawing sometimes on the saxophone playing of João Pedro Brandão, José Soares and Julius Gabriel but mostly drawing from their own vast pools of tones and textures.

The album starts off with the track entitled "Opening," in which a reserved rumble of tom-toms and hand-drums are sliced through by metallic scrapping from cymbals. This leads seamlessly into "One with Infinite Space," where we hear the saxophones playing layered legato harmonies and short melodic declarations. Track 3, "Alma Ra Kalam," shows a different side of the trio, where hand drums provide a more down to earth groove after the spiritual soaring of the previous track. The track builds slowly, a taught energy generated between the hand drums and the drum kit that comes in later to solidify the pulse.

Over the course of the album's generous fifteen tracks, there are duo and trio encounters, some that swing and others that plumb the sonic depths. From time to time, usually at the start of a track, you may even hear Moses exclaim something or sing the drum line he's about to play. Closing track, "Soaring Leaf," is one that again incorporates the horns. This time, the hand drum is underscored with a jittery snare drum and the saxophones and flute flutter like leaves in wind, perhaps even propelled by the woosh of bass drum.

If pressed to say one positive thing about social media, I would offer up Sonic Alchemy Suprema. The album is the lasting evidence of a musical encounter born from a seemingly innocuous post placed in cyberspace, leading to a recording that captures spirit and communication on a deep musical level.