Valinho/Vicente/dos Reis/Lucifora

Light Machina
Multikulti MPSMT 023

Fail Better!

The Fall

JCC Records 41

As the Portuguese Free Music scene matures and become better known internationally some improvisers stand out. Among them are trumpeter Luís Vicente and guitarist Marcelo dos Reis, who are featured here. Recorded nearly 2½ years apart in Coimbra, both CDs resonate with the same mature invention, though the other players are different. Vicente who has played with John Dikeman and dos Reis who has worked with Eve Risser, are part of a quintet on The Fall, joined by Catalan saxophonist Albert Cirera who plays with Agustí Fernández; bassist José Miguel Pereira, who has recorded with Burton Greene; and drummer Marco Franco who often works with the guitarist and trumpeter. On Light Machina Vicente and dos Reis are joined by Italian trombonist Salvoandrea Lucifora and local drummer João Valinho. Just listing the personnel makes the international connections obvious.

With cohesion that member states of the EU could envy, collective improvisations dominate both discs. Architecturally building up from a foundation of cymbal shuffles, irregular drum bangs and fluid double bass pulses during the Fail Better session, the sonic edifice’s upper floor cladding is created by blending brass smears and flutters, split tone extension and transverse blowing from Cirera with the grout equivalent sprayed from dos Reis’ repetitive frails and Rock-inflected strumming. Mid-point “Falling Stars” is the construction plateau where Arcadian as well as architectural timbres are evident. Reaching a crescendo made up of whooshes and spliffs from the horns, bell-ringing cymbal clangs and violin-pitched string sawing leaps from Pereira, guitar plinks and capillary plunger variations and body tube reed slurs contribute to the subsequent “Skyfall.” As Reveille-like trumpet brassiness and saxophone doits combine into high-pitched flutters, guitar patterns which move the narrative southwards to the “Down Under” finale. Swaying and undulating, the final track reaches horizontal stasis as guitar plucks join renal brass growls.

More assured still, each of Light Machina’s three tracks is lengthier than the preceding one as the session evolves. But here Vicente and dos Reis have to share front line space with Lucifora’s dramatic tailgate flutters and plunger exhortations. Without a bassist or another horn, the guitarist also concerns himself with creating connective strums to join with drum clip clops creating horizontal continuity. Similarly with trombone dominance of lower brass pitches, Vicente’s contrapuntal strategy centres around high-pitched squeaks and stutters. Ambulatory but layered, the quartet strategy detours and returns to the narrative as the trumpeter’s mouthpiece kisses and half-valve effects add to the timbral colors already produced by the mellifluent smears and plunger excursions by the trombonist. Meanwhile the unfolding story never gets too far off track as dos Reis’ barbed string stabs and percussive string pummels maintain cohesion.

Finally the nearly 18-minutes of “The RainGoat” move logically forward in broken octave concordance as intertwined horn smears and flutters separate into descending tones from Lucifora and accelerating vibrations from Vicente. More cerebral finger picking from dos Reis underlines a further brass variation as Vicente’s Harmon-muted smears challenge the trombonist’s tailgate furor leading to a harder and faster conclusion of layered trumpet slurs, trombone slides and guitar clanks.

International cooperation is heightening the skills of Portuguese improvisers as these CDs attest. Also demonstrated are how others display their top form when playing alongside these improvisers.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fall: 1. Ground Floor 2. Rise Up 3. Falling Stars 4. Skyfall 5. Down Under

Personnel: Fall: Luís Vicente (trumpet); Albert Cirera (soprano and tenor saxophones); Marcelo dos Reis (guitar); José Miguel Pereira (bass) and Marco Franco (drums and flute)

Track Listing: Light: 1. Machina Girl 2. Saving Pigs 3. The RainGoat

Personnel: Light: Luís Vicente (trumpet); Salvoandrea Lucifora (trombone); Marcelo dos Reis (guitar) and João Valinho (drums)