March 18, 2010
European Echoes 004
The Abstract Truth
European Echoes 003
Turning a cliché on its head, it’s evident with these CDs that familiarity breeds creativity. For while Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado’s session with American bassist Kent Kessler and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love is only good, his Motion Trio disc with two fellow Lisbon musicians is exceptional.
A photographer as well as an improviser, Amado has been committed to advanced music for years, as a member of the Lisbon Improvisation Players and collaborating with American jazzers such as bassist Ken Filiano and cellist Tomas Ulrich; he even recorded an earlier trio session with Kessler and Nilssen-Love.
However it appears as if his concept of real-time composition works best with cello, considering the technical versatility local experimental polymath Miguel Mira brings to the date. American-Portuguese drummer Gabriel Ferrandini is only in his early twenties, but having played in noise as well as electro-acoustic bands and ad hoc with the likes of American corniest Rob Mazurek and German saxophonist Alfred “23” Harth, he mates rhythmically minimal texture with intensity of the Energizer Bunny when he plays.
Sticking to tenor saxophone on Motion Trio – he also plays baritone on Abstract Truth – Amado still squeals and squeaks with glossolalia and multiphonics, snakes upwards to altissimo pitches and slides downwards to mid-range just as quickly. Discursive and quirky, his lines sometimes resemble the streets twisting upwards from many port cities: squares and passages that narrowly avoid dead ends.
Throughout six long tracks Mira’s multi-string cornucopia of techniques and patterns complements the reed textures. With circular motions, the cellist often pushes his string spiccato still further, not only subdividing his output with shuffles and woody stops, also exposing partials, and ricocheting between sharp slippery slices and sul ponticello chording. He doesn’t neglect walking at points either.
A tune such as “Radical Leaves” makes it obvious when Ferrandini lays out. But this is necessary most of the time. Anti-bombastic, the drummer’s usual ratcheting beats are made up of pauses and rumbles as much as smacks, ruffs and rebounds. With a heritage that encompasses Brazil and Italy as well as Portugal and the U.S., the percussionist’s sly shakes and rattles suggest native South American as well as Iberian rhythms. Somehow also this classic trio formation brings out Sonny Rollins echoes, at least in Amado’s use of note pecking and the swift injections of melody snatches. Tonguing a hard reed, he honks, spits and splinters lines into fuzzy multiphonics.
Together the three reach a climax with the final “In All Languages”, the title of which appropriately reflects the band members’ backgrounds. Constantly chromatic and contrapuntally layered, each musician’s part cumulates in a dense and viscous crescendo, which while nearly opaque allows the colors of each instrument to shine through.
Similar cooperation is evident o the other CD – recorded almost exactly a year earlier – with Amado’s Rollins admiration also evident, but spread between two horns. Kessler, close playing partner of Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark in the reedist’s numerous groups, constantly steadies the instant compositions by walking and time keeping. One of the world’s busiest drummers, whose adaptability is such that he can back up such widely disparate saxophonist stylists as Peter Brötzmann and John Butcher without fissure, Nilssen-Love is additionally more upfront in his playing than Ferrandini is in his. Nevertheless the Norwegian is subtle as well. Here he backs up the saxophonist’s irregular altissimo jumps, repeated tone clusters and intensity vibrato with mid-range cymbal claps, rim shot snaps and snare undulations. Not only that, but while at points Nilssen-Love’s strokes can also sometimes be as thick as telephone poles and vibrate with a military-style gait, his shuffle beats are sensitive enough to mix it up with Amado’s and flat-line note substitution and coloration.
Examples of how the trio operates at top form appear on “Universe Unmasked” and “A Dream Transformed”. The former features snoring baritone buzzes from Amado as he expels broken-octave quacks and hiccupping runs – matched by burbling ruffs and rim shots from the drummer and muscular pumps from the bassist. The later features the saxophonist taking a mid-range and moderato tune and using it as a Trane-like depiction of every tone, color and pattern he can muster from the tenor, masticating and tonguing higher-and-lower theme variants. Adding the occasional altissimo bark, Amado’s microscopic investigation is aided by the drummer’s rim shots and Kessler’s string creaks.
The abstract truth about the Amado/Kessler/Nilssen-Love meeting is that it faithfully captures another meeting among first-class improvisers from different countries. But the interaction among Lisbon hommies makes The Motion Trio an even more memorable CD.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Abstract: 1. Intro/The Red Tower 2. Clouds and Shadows 3. Human Condition 4. The Kiss 5. Universe Unmasked 6. A Dream Transformed 7. The Enchanted Room 8. Enigma of the Arrival
Personnel: Abstract: Rodrigo Amado (tenor and baritone saxophones); Kent Kessler (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums)
Track Listing: Motion: 1. Language Call 2. Testify! 3. Radical Leaves 4. As we move … 5. Ballad 6. In All Languages
Personnel: Motion: Rodrigo Amado (tenor saxophone); Miguel Mira (cello) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums)