Hugo Carvalhais

Clean Feed CF 253 CD

Easily designated as the epitome of a contemporary European Jazz CD, Portuguese bassist Hugo Carvalhais’ quintet explores the intricacies of nine of the bull fiddler’s compositions here. Expanding the interpretations by adding two French musicians – soprano saxophonist Émile Parisien and violinist Dominique Pifarély – to his local confreres of keyboardist Gabriel Pinto and drummer Mário Costa, Carvalhais has worked out a consistency of approach. While there’s no fissure between the Gallic and Iberian players, it appears that while the saxophonist provides the necessary challenges to the others, the violinist is underutilized.

As it stands now, Pifarély, known for his work with the likes of reedist Louis Sclavis and guitarist Marc Ducret, really only get to express himself fully on the final “Amniotic” and the introductory “Flux”. Even on “Amniotic”, the splattering scrubs he adds to Pinto’s undulating organ chords merely serve as counterpoint to an underlay of electronics pulses from the bassist. As for “Flux”, it’s the fiddler’s double stopped finesse which dramatically expands the romantic mood at the top, then cuts it off with shrill string sweeps at the end. Meanwhile rhythm is maintained by Carvalhais’ aggressive pumps and Costa’s hard smacks, with some reed-sucking atonality from Parisien, who often plays with drummer Daniel Humair, trying to move the tune towards dissonance.

Throughout double-tongued vibrations and irregulars flutters as well as more conventional harmoniousness exists as a way for Parisien to add pointillist intensity to the string continuum and keyboard movements, whether resulting from formal pianism or synthesizer-affiliated textures. One of the more memorable resolutions of this is “Madrigal”, which despite its title contains a swing motif. Tactile bass strums plus clinking piano comping keep the pieces in place as the saxophonist’s peeps and chirps give it more character,

On the evidence here, Oporto-born Carvalhais is a strong enough player and composer to oversee a fine effort such as this. However considering that some of his experience is with tradition stretches or subverters like Tim Berne, the hope is that he’ll be more daring on his next recorded outing.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Flux 2. Chrysalis 3. Simulacrum 4. Capsule 5. Omega 6. Madrigal 7. Cortex 8. Generator 9. Amniotic

Personnel: Émile Parisien (soprano saxophone); Dominique Pifarély (violin); Gabriel Pinto (piano, organ and synthesizer); Hugo Carvalhais (bass) and Mário Costa (drums)