The Sound of Places
Clean Feed CF 031CD

Globalization is as much a fact of life in music as in commerce and politics. At least that’s the conclusion you make by listening to THE SOUND OF PLACES. Two Portuguese and two German musicians combine in the band Earth Talk to play seven of the Portuguese guitarist’s compositions dedicated to, as the title indicates, several different locations.

Trouble is, while the music is technically proficient and well-played, it could come from anywhere – nothing distinguishes it from a myriad of other mainstream sessions. Not only doesn’t it – except by inference – reflect the areas supposedly celebrated, but there’s nothing particularly Iberian or Teutonic about the sounds either.

Main culprit is guitarist Pedro Madaleno, who studied both at Boston’s Berklee School of Music and New York’s New School Jazz program during five years in the United States. Taking direction from jazz education heavy hitters such as pianist/arranger Kenny Werner and fretmen such as John Scofield and John Abercrombie, he’s come up with a luminescent, professional style. This has allowed him since 1990 to teach at the Hot Club Portugal School and receive festival commissions of which this is one.

Lacking angularity or animation, THE SOUND OF PLACES is probably perfect summer jazz festival fare. Heard under a sunny Portuguese sky, perhaps near the sea and with a good supply of food and spirits, it probably makes good background music. Without upsetting anyone in the audience from infants to pensioners, the sounds likely convinced the uninitiated that this jazz stuff wasn’t so bad after all – in its place once a year.

Rife with carefully modulated beats, the unsweaty interface sounds like the sort of sessions Stan Getz and Jimmy Raney, Zoot Sims and Joe Pass or lesser duos recorded in the 1950s, with Madaleno in the Raney or Pass role and Cologne-native tenor saxophonist Wolfgang Fuhr is the Getz/Sims seat. Bassist Nelson Cascais stays in the background, confirming why he’s much in demand on the Portuguese scene, and drummer Dejan Terzic from Nuremberg, who has played with the NDR Big Band, is similarly unobtrusive.

Probably as the result of his experience with the two American guitarists, early fusion players both, not all of the Madaleno’s tune sound as if they come from the 1950s. Some have more modern progressions and healthier rhythms that move them up at least as far as the mid-1970s. One should probably be thankful that the guitarist’s time in the U.S. just missed the neo-con bop retrogression.

Not all is lost. A couple of tunes have attractive voicings and turn-arounds. Fuhr spews out some double tonguing and adds a hint of Balkan melancholy at times. One piece, “Em Órbita” – the shortest, of course, – finds the bassist indulging in sul ponticello moves, the saxophonist slurring and the guitarist advancing discordant cross-picking. Other than that, it’s business as usual.

No great knock against Madaleno and Earth Talk. But with many other Portuguese improvisers adding more of themselves and the unique sounds from their country to the music, a session like this seems almost superfluous.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1.Campo 2. Montanhas 3. Água 4. Faróis na noite 5. Deserto 6. Em Órbita 7. Igrejas

Personnel: Wolfgang Fuhr (tenor saxophone); Pedro Madaleno (guitar); Nelson Cascais (bass); Dejan Terzic (drums)