December 15, 2011
No Label No #
Inquedanzas Sonores ISD-1039
Part of what may be called the Iberian Diaspora; Madrid-born reedist Ricardo Tejero has become a presence on the British Free Music scene since the turn of the century, following an apprenticeship in Spain during the 1990s. Now a member of the London Improvisers Orchestra, Tejero is an exploratory improviser who has managed to frame his work in a variety of smaller ensembles. Recorded nearly three years apart, these CDs not only pinpoint his growing audacity as a composer and improviser, but also note how he’s more willing to expose himself as a soloist.
His associates here are almost evenly split between Brits and Hispanics. On Progressions for instance, his confreres are Brazilian-born, long-time London resident bassist Marcio Mattos, who has regularly worked with veteran Free Musicians such as drummer Eddie Prévost. Barcelona-based, Madrid-born percussionist Javier Carmona collaborates with dancers as well as musicians such as guitarist John Russell. British saxophonist Adrian Northover is known for his membership in bands such as B Shops for the Poor and The Remote Viewers while Kenyan-born, London-based violinist Alison Blunt has worked with the likes of pianist Veryan Weston. Although bassist Pabo Pérez is little known, versatile drummer Mark Sanders has played with seemingly everyone on the British improv scene from trombonist Gail Brand to saxophonist Evan Parker.
A Free Music variant of the add-an-instrument showpiece pioneered by saxophonist Benny Golson and others, the pieces composed by Tejero for Progressions are supposed to use pre-arranged structures to create parameters within which the musician can improvise. Although ostensibly designed to provide players with the least number of restrictions, they just skirts gimmickry due to the strength of the playing. Tejero, a member of Musicalibre, the Spanish Improvised Music Association, introduces clarinet, alto and then tenor saxophone work on subsequent tracks. He plays notably enough when his linear twitters and sudden upward thrusts flow into a stratified form matched by Carmona’s resonating conga- like pump and Mattos’ solid plucking on a tune such as “Algarroba”. But the most revealing and dramatic use of the concept comes on the nearly 21-minute “Here Now” when all five participate.
With Mattos and Blunt both making use of skittering and juddering lines, the composer’s altissimo elaboration on tenor saxophone mixed with false register multiphonics from Northover’s soprano saxophone are properly balanced. Frequently avoiding sonic chaos, the five work through several sequences whereby different players shade the exposition in dissimilar ways. For instance, Tejero’s irregular vibrated reed trills mix with Blunt’s squeaking spiccato, while Mattos’ dobro-like plucks cozy up to Northover’s intense warbles. Eventually, following an intermezzo of snorting and sluicing split tones from the tenor saxophonist, rolls and ruffs from Carmona and the bassist’s bass string slaps, the cacophony reorients itself. Blunt, staccato lines work into double counterpoint with Tejero’s stacked harmonies as Northover’s horn provides terse, high-pitched commentary. The exposition is finally resolved with hints of Iberian rhythms and polyphonic riffing from the reeds.
Group tessitura is much more balanced three years later in the compositions and improvisations which make up Airam Airun. With Tejero adding penny whistle shrills to his clarinet and tenor saxophone soloing, hints of Latin rhythms and even the shape of half-heard pop songs sneak into the six showpieces. Tellingly the title tune, which is the only one composed by a single person – the bassist in this case – is also the only one wedded to Free Jazz. On it a sympathetic bass continuum and splayed percussion rebounds back a taut, magisterial reading of the head by Tejero on tenor saxophone. The piece’s originality is confirmed in its latter half however when methodical rasgueado from the bassist sets up a finale of dissolving clarinet licks.
More germane to the reedist’s evolution, are the treatments of “Sketches” and “Fliping Flute”. Despite its title, the second tune is apparently played on the clarinet, from which Tejero manages to coax a piccolo-like timbre. During this showcase for speedy and stuttering vibrations, he manages to impressively expose tonal variations between flutter tonguing and irregular reed slurs. Meanwhile Sanders’ drum set rattles and pops and Pérez pumps angled, spiccato lines. “Sketches” moves in unexpected fashion as well. With the bassist’s plucks and the drummer’s press rolls as ballast, the clarinettist evolves from highlighting irregular sound leaks to a mid-section of circular reed bites and frantic contralto split tones, ending with a reed climax that’s as legato as it is accentuated.
On the evidence here, sparked by sympathetic playing partners, Tejero’s skills are evidentially constantly evolving. Who know what progress may be charted on his next record?
Track Listing: Airam: 1. Crunchy 2. Sketches 3. Vigo 4. Umia 5. Fliping Flute 6 Airam Airun
Personnel: Airam: Ricardo Tejero (clarinet, tenor saxophone and penny whistle): Pabo Pérez (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)
Track Listing: Progressions: 1. El viaje de Amanda^ 2. Uno doble* 3. Algarroba* 4. Whip Leap+# 5. Here Now+#%
Personnel: Progressions: Ricardo Tejero (alto* and tenor+ saxophones and ^clarinet); Adrian Northover (soprano saxophone)#; Alison Blunt (violin)%; Marcio Mattos (bass and electronics [all tracks but 1, 2]) and Javier Carmona (drums and percussion [all tracks but 1])