Rodrigo Amado

Wire Quartet
Clean Feed CF 297 CD

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans

The Freedom Principle

NoBusiness Records NBCD 67

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans

Live in Lisbon

NoBusiness Records NBLP 75

Solidifying his reputation as one of Portugal’s most adventurous modern-to-Free Jazz saxophonists is Lisbon-based tenor man Rodrigo Amado, who continues to lead a variety of local combos plus match wits with exploratory out-of-country soloists. One of Amado’s virtues is his self-possessed consistency. So while the perceptions involved in his newest quartet sessions are widely dissimilar he brings the same occupational incisiveness to his playing.

Going back to 2011, Wire Quartet is one of Amado’s working groups that matches the reedist with the rhythm section of the evolving Portuguese Red Trio: bassist Hernâni Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Amado’s sometimes post-Coltrane soloing, honed by working with sound explorers like Jeb Bishop and Dennis González takes the two a little beyond the comfort level they experience with the Red3. Adding to this sonic dislocation is guitarist Manuel Mota, whose approach mulches influences including Jim Hall’s suppleness, La Monte Young-propelled drone and inclined prickly string attacks à la Derek Bailey.

Skip forward two years and Live in Lisbon plus The Freedom Principle find Amada, Ferrandini plus cellist Miguel Mira who work as the Motion Trio, in two sessions, recorded two days apart, with highly praised American trumpeter Peter Evans. Evans who has affiliation as different as Evan Parker and New music ensembles, stays pretty much in a FreeBop, Free Jazz continuum here and the trio follows the same route. Interesting whereas most of the studio session gallops by in near-freneticism, tunes on the Live Evans dates build up from a moderato to mid-range and eventually reach staccato fire power. “Pepper Packed”, Principle’s final track is more akin to the live disc and boasts a defining coda from Evans with faint plunger tones following cries from within his horn.

More representative of the meeting are the earlier tunes, especially the title track where the four are in proper post-modern tumult. Mira’s cello strokes are steadfast enough so that his taking of the double bass role is no stretch; while Ferrandini’s cymbal and rim pressure are tuned in such a way that color is added when needed and without the percussionist ever having to abandon chromatic motions. Evans brassy note-spearing and limpid tones move in-and-out of sync, faintly creating a muted atmospheric background at points; at another he could be quoting from “Played Twice”. Without ever rupturing the continuum, Amado stretches it further eventually turning to bottom-fed metallic-tinged smears that contrast smartly with Evans’ mouth bubbles. Finally the two combine with a mutual interface reminiscent of Don Cherry’s work with Sonny Rollins and/or Archie Shepp. “Shadows” is more of an aviary showcase for lost tones, where the horns’ textures segment, with the trumpeter slicing his tremolo notes to atoms as the saxophonist widens his timbres to a near-opaque curtain. Contrasting droning reed blats and braying brass screams server as the finale as drum-stick clicks and spiccato string motions urge on the front line.

Two days previously on a live date, the pacing and Freebop echoes are even stronger. Evans’ tongue jujitsu is more responsive too. On the second number he moves close to quoting “Night in Tunisia,” while on the first, his obbligato to Amado’s altissimo cries could be a riff growing out of Bill Hardman’s or Lee Morgan’s Bop work. At this juncture Amado’s playing, which is never excessively far-out anyhow take on Jackie McLean coloration. Here too, “Music is the Music Language” is the more noteworthy performance because of its balanced pacing. Starting off slow and expressive it becomes moderated and expressive mid-way through and climaxes with the saxophonist’s bucolic openness serving as contrast and context for flutter-tongued trumpeting that encompasses sighs and slides.

The other track, some of the material The Freedom Principle, and, to be truthful, many other situations involving Evans suffer from similar obstacles. The brass man is so technically adapt and iindefatigable in his soloing that he almost always over-plays. His puffing asides, capillary smears, growls and sky-high gyrating are spectacular. But if often takes a mellow tone from the saxophonist to keep every tune from turning into a brass tour-de-force.

There’s a different dynamic at work on Wire Quartet. If the Evans-affiliated interface eventually suggests a connection to the Rollins/Shepp & Cherry sessions, then Mota’s presence calls on odder antecedents. Midway through “Abandon Yourself” for instance, the casual melodies passing between Amada and Mota could have come from Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd; a few minutes later they change so much that a mash-up with Trane and Sonny Sharrock is suggested.

Overall Amado’s relaxation and Mota’s astringency in performance create the proper push-pull to make these quartet performances notable as well. At the top at least the reedist’s unflappable concentration suggests that he could be playing both sax parts of the Ben Webster meets Gerry Mulligan LP. Later on he turns to sharper tongue vibrations in order to meet the guitarist’s miasma of tremolo timbres which twang, whap, smack, pluck and wail. The drummer’s bell-pealing asides and a meander through the string-set by Faustino calm the interface during one sequence, but latterly Trane and Sharrock appear to have kidnapped Byrd and Getz. By the screaming finale, drum clatters, reed bites and pressurized string spanks have turned the tune frantic and ultimately more exiting. Going his own way Mota’s sharpened expositions push the others into surging creativity.

All of these sessions have something to recommend them. Quirkily though it appears that it’s Amado who’s reining in Evans’ excesses on the 2013 discs, and Mota who is pushing Amado to loosen up more on the 2011 CD. Wonder what would have if the two additional players from the Evans/Motion Trio CDs joined the Wire Quartet for a session? It could be an experiment worth attempting.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Wire: 1. Abandon Yourself 2. Surrender 3, To the Music

Personnel: Wire: Rodrigo Amado (tenor saxophone); Manuel Mota (guitar); Hernani Faustino (bass) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums)

Track Listing: Freedom: 1. The Freedom Principle 2. Shadows 3. Pepper Packed

Personnel: Freedom: Peter Evans (trumpet); Rodrigo Amado (tenor saxophone); Miguel Mira (cello) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums)

Track Listing: Live: 1. Conflict is Intimacy 2. Music is the Music Language

Personnel: Live: Peter Evans (trumpet); Rodrigo Amado (tenor saxophone); Miguel Mira (cello) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums)