October 25, 2023

For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror
Clean Feed CF 632 CD

João Paulo Esteves Da Silva Trio
The River
Arjunamuisc Records AMAC CD 727

Two European ensembles put individual stamps on the Jazz piano trio tradition with sessions that are either tranquil or turbulent. Perhaps confirming the EU’s universality, neither band consists of musicians from one country. More placid, The River features Portuguese pianist João Paulo Esteves Da Silva, who has worked with João Pedro Burmester, among others; countryman bassist Mário Franco, who has worked with Ralph Towner; and Swiss drummer Samuel Rohrer, who has played with Julie Sassoon. More provocative, For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror, which like the other disc is made up of instant compositions, features Italian pianist Simone Quatrana, who has recorded with Ken Vandermark; Italian bassist Andrea Grossi, whose expanded Blend Orchestra includes the pianist; and Portuguese drummer/percussionist Pedro Melo Alves, who has worked with everyone from Mark Dresser to Eve Risser.

Languidly framing the disc, The River‘s geography begins with reflective double bass thumps, delicate drum top polishes and gentle plinks until the meditative melody opens up and toughens the next few tracks with snapping bass strings, drum patterns and supple and singular keyboard emphasis which pulls back to reveal story telling expositions, albeit slowly, steadily and with darkened piano chords. The turn from the atmospheric takes hold only on the second half of the disc as cymbal squeaks and more key pressure suggestions different avenues. That way the formalism of “From Below” is contrasted with the preceding “Head, Heart”, which lives up to its title by ascending to a full-out swing section in its centre with responsive keyboard quavers and singular string plucks. Then it returns to the initially defined unhurried and precise pace. Tolling piano lines matched with restrained cymbal pops complete the disc’s sonic circle on the concluding “Smoke Signals”, by reinforcing the unhurried musical perception displayed at the disc’s beginning.

An altogether livelier affair, the 10 improvisations separated by four under 30 second splashy and speedy piano interludes on the other CD could be The River’s bizzarro twin. Whereas piano, bass and drum textures are perfectly in syn, expected and ascribed to individual instruments, HIIT’s integrated soundscape often precludes individual sound identification. Most of the time cross pulses mean that bass strings are as apt to produce a reed-like shrill as time-keep, cymbal scratches can be used as an ostinato, and keyboard slaps help layer evolving narratives. At the same time other tracks such as the concluding “Perline” and “The Tartar Steppe” are quiet enough to approach lower-case improv, with the former especially building its narrative out of barely there drum rumbles and arco bass undulations plus tile-like clicks from the piano keys. Elsewhere, louder and brawnier interface is also exposed, as piano pedal pressure merges with drum pops and ruffs and expanded bass resonations. “Urbe” is the paramount instance of this as the three-part action integrates string stops, keyboard clunks and percussion extensions from cymbals and drum thumps. It’s a blend of story telling and stop-time asides. Methodical keyboard evolution or swift glissandi are also stacked up against the drummer’s paradiddles, clip-clops, pops and ruffs, leading to a kaleidoscopic program which is often as surprising as it is standard.

Overall, while there’s no disputing the skill of both sets of trio members, For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror offers the sonic equivalent of a technicolor project, while The River’s motion is strictly monochrome.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: River 1. The House Behind 2. Loosing Memory 3. City People 4. Concerning The Ice 5. Passing Wind 6. Head, Heart 7. From Below 8. Lost Small Things .9. Smoke Signals

Personnel: River: João Paulo Esteves Da Silva (piano); Mário Franco (bass) and Samuel Rohrer (drums)

Track Listing: Beauty: 1. Gliss Glass 2. Ecotone 3. Concetto Spaziale (To Lucio Fontana) 4. Interlude I 5. Urbe 6. Urge (To Roberto Masotti) 7. Interlude II 8. The Tartar Steppe (To Dino Buzzati) 9 . Clichés 10. Lament 11. Interlude III 12. Taro (To Giorgio Gaslini) 13. Interlude IV 14. Perline

Personnel: Beauty: Simone Quatrana (piano); Andrea Grossi (bass) and Pedro Melo Alves (drums and percussion)