Sunday, 28 February 2010

Two Aces


“This is quartet music that emphasizes the groove”, says Joe Morris to illustrate the material contained in Today On Earth, which features anarchically brilliant alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, attuned virtuoso bassist Timo Shanko and solidly ingenious drummer Luther Gray. The guitarist’s depiction finds a confirmation since the first notes of the opening “Backbone”, a swinging naturalness informing the members’ flummoxing facility in delivering themselves from the constrictions of a pulse while remaining entirely synchronized. Immediately thereafter, the angularly pensive theme of the unperturbed “Animal” constitutes a highlight in this circumstance and one of the most terrific tunes ever by Morris, whose unprocessed tone and close-to-brusque approach to phrasing remains an admirable attribute in times of overly compressed saturation, market-approved suffering faces and hyper-technical pointlessness better suited for Guitar Player’s adolescent readers. These two tracks alone define the richness of particulars and the clearness of mind shown the whole time by the foursome, but there’s more to savour and commit to memory. “Observer”, for example, links melodic unfussiness, depth of vision and instantaneous prowess in fine acoustic handwriting, Shanko and Hobbs actors in very intense, almost transcendental solo spots before the leader’s purposeful improvisation becomes the object of attention. What mostly characterizes the effort, and ultimately renders it highly creditable, is the artists’ motivation in pursuing apparently impractical solutions and tortuous roads to arrive at conclusions that sound particularly digestible, despite the expected fearlessness and the nearly confrontational difficulty of some of the pieces (try scatting “Embarrassment Of Riches” and come home humbled). I don’t know if this stuff will manage to let the listeners “have (...) a second of reflection about our lives standing on this planet floating in the universe” (to quote the boss again). Sure enough the realization of the impossibility, for many so-called musicians, of letting their inner selves out at such level of expression is going to materialize after less than ten minutes, and returning to pedestrian renditions of standards and inadequate harmonic substitutions won’t be easy. (Aum Fidelity)


There’s a forward-looking intensity that permeates the interplay generated by the members of the Motion Trio (leader Rodrigo Amado on tenor sax, Miguel Mira on cello, Gabriel Ferrandini on drums). Their unfortified creative citadel welcomes all kinds of suggestion, which get retransformed and modified during lively fluxes of unfettered improvisation aiming to symbolize a vision more than defining a field of action. The Portuguese reedist’s enlightened skillfulness is manifest: he’s one of those natural-sounding, humble jazzmen whose main intent is the eradication of artistic insularity and genre-derived confinement. In “Testify!” he staggers and stutters across magnificently unaccomplished melodic ramifications, ensnaring us in an illusory sense of dislocated linearity quickly turning towards uncontaminated frankness. The pieces are punctuated by lumpy outbursts, chattering descriptions and peaceful recollections, a portrayal of gestural weightlessness that, on the contrary, emphasizes the imaginative impact. Mira and Ferrandini work eagerly within the context, remaining suspended between "unconstitutional" and "tolerable" as they provide a stable supply of pulsating energy to a music that – although clearly rooted in jazz – gradually seems to grow into a strange flying creature, ready to perplex and, ultimately, elicit admiration in those who observe its unusual, scheme-free fluttering. (European Echoes)