Sei Miguel

Salvation Modes
Clean Feed CF 295 CD

Expanding his musical palate to try to become recognized as a composer of wide-open, semi-improvised scores as well as a trumpet soloist, Paris-born, Lisbon-based Sei Miguel demonstrates his skills with three pieces for dissimilar ensembles. Composed at specific periods in his life, and possessing reductionist slants, the three are analogous enough to form the beginnings of an oeuvre. But lacking his distinctive understated brass tone would the adhesive be as obvious?

In many ways the oldest – and shortest at under 9¾-minute – tune is the most instructive. With the composer on trumpet and finger cymbals, César Burago playing percussion and radio; Margarida Garcia a two-string bass called a “twin”; and Andre Gonçalves using Hammond organ-like manipulation, “Fermata” is equalized and mysterious. The equality arises as the trumpeter’s muted textures, which are squeezed linearly as from a toothpaste tube, are bolstered by conga-like patterns, bass-string continuum and oozing organ-tone-oriented harmonies. When the melody is emphasized though, it’s with distinct brass blasts.

More ambitious still is “Cantata Mussurana”, for an 11-piece ensemble and ostensibly based on a Creole purification ritual. Although Guinea-born griot, Kimi Djabaté, now a Lisbon resident, incantates phrases throughout, their meaning is lost on non-Portuguese and/or non-Creole speakers. Djabaté`s chansonnier-like delivery is pleasant enough, but the real musical architecture of the piece is instrumental. Built up from the James Jamerson-like rhythmic kick of Pedro Lourenco’s bass guitar, other sounds from modular feedback to viola slices to claves beats make their presence felt. But the climax is reached after Miguel’s sweeping obbligatos become harsher, jabbed by double-stopping strings and biting trombone interference. The dramatic finale ratchets the tension upwards via clashing cymbals, then fades.

In contrast, a quartet version of “Preludio e Cruz De Sala” is a little too understated, both in its prelude and after the growling and dissonant theme has been established by trombonist Fala Mariam’s tongue slaps and Pedro Gomes’s guitar flanges. Additionally, as the menace associated with contrapuntal crunches and near wave-form continuum during the more than 27-minute tracks breaks down, it’s up to delicate accents from drums and claves to sustain the line until grinding guitar lines and rough, slurping brass tones provide the delayed climax.

Miguel confirms his compositional skills with this CD. However it appears from the performances that brevity coupled with balanced arrangements of orchestral colors are what makes the greatest impact.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Preludio e Cruz De Sala 2. Fermata 3. Cantata Mussurana

Personnel: Sei Miguel (trumpet and finger cymbals); Fala Mariam (trombone and alto trombone); Nuno Torres (alto saxophone); Pedro Gomes (guitar); Andre Gonçalves (Hammond manipulation); Ernesto Rodrigues, (viola); Pedro Lourenco (bass guitar); Margarida Garcia, (twin); Luis Desirat (drums); Monsieur Trinité (bandoneon, de Osaka, ganza and afoché); César Burago (percussion, radio, bandoneon, de Osaka, claves and agogo); Rafael Toral (modulated feedback) and Kimi Djabaté (voice)