Selected picks from the ever-growing pile of recent and past releases from Clean Feed’s catalogue, with more to come in the next weeks.
BERNARDO SASSETTI TRIO – Motion
Bernardo Sassetti (piano), Carlos Barretto (bass), Alexander Frazão (drums). Classic Sassetti, you can’t go wrong with that. All but two compositions are by him, the opening and the closing tunes by, respectively, Linkous and Mompou. Some of the music was conceived for cinema and theatre, a specialization of this great artist. Difficult to remain confined in the ambit of critical reasoning when listening to the emotion-eliciting records that the Portuguese pianist delivers with impressive regularity. Emaciated linearity, melodic unambiguousness, memories now fading, now perfectly clear. A world of forgotten glories and smiling sadness, in which one breathes slowly while watching life unfold without a clue on how to change it. An indispensable interior geometry bathed in uniquely sober romanticism, never transcending to mellifluousness. Themes that recall a hundred influences yet always sound like deeply personal suggestions, which a open heart can take in and utilize for putting a finger on what looks unapproachable at first. Fluttering thoughts, sudden realizations, dissimulation of sorrow. A lesson on the essentials of introspective recollection, performed with uttermost class by three superb musicians.
CARLOS BICA + MATÉRIA-PRIMA – Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima
Carlos Bica (double bass), Matthias Schriefl (trumpet, flugelhorn, melodica), João Paulo (piano, keyboards, accordion), Mário Delgado (electric guitar), João Lobo (drums, percussion). Ever since the very beginning – “D.C.”, namely almost ten minutes of a basic rock-blues vamp with rather ordinary playing from all members – your reviewer was awfully confounded, thinking of a sort of indecipherable homage to certain sonorities of the late 60s. It didn’t get any better: the whole album sounds as a collection of discarded soundtracks from 30-40 years ago, stuffed with easy-to-digest melodies, elementary arrangements, washed-out progressions, generally predictable solos. Everything extremely dated in a passionless exercise-like style: no emotion, no impulsiveness, nothing that managed to protract my curiosity for more than fifteen seconds. If there’s some irony disguised in this release, I really could not understand it. To this raconteur it is just desolately tiresome, veritably lacking a pulse, the lone exceptions being a nice enough track called “Roses For You” and the encore, an excellent cover of Ry Cooder’s “Paris, Texas”. Dulcis in fundo indeed - but the large quantity of preceding monotony is too much to overcome with that only.
AVRAM FEFER – Ritual
Avram Fefer (alto, tenor & soprano sax, bass clarinet), Eric Revis (bass), Chad Taylor (drums). The utter loathsomeness afflicting the stereotyped music played by a large chunk of trios is mostly forgotten in Ritual, not a revolution but a sincere, honest album for sure. An open minded group working halfway through cognizant dynamism and regulated liberation without forgetting the basics of classic jazz. Starting from straightforward elements such as an African rhythm, a rudimentary melodic figuration or a contemplative theme, the three become involved and almost tangled in zealous interpretations of a rather modern literature, upon which Fefer moves with a good degree of fervor, a desire of “letting people in” and the full consciousness of the space around his phrases, which he inhabits placidly enough, minus any kind of coercion towards the audience. Excellent work from Revis and Taylor, who challenge the commonly intended concept of foundation to add their own breakthroughs, thus contributing to elevate the overall intensity – and, ultimately, the interplay’s strength - to higher levels.
DENNIS GONZÁLEZ / JOÃO PAULO – Scapegrace
Duets for piano (Paulo) and Bb cornet plus C trumpet (González). I only see a minor problem in an otherwise perfectly fine CD, namely its unnecessarily stretched duration at over 72 minutes. In consideration of the homogeneity of such a kind of instrumental tête-à-tête, which more or less revolves around the same factors (especially on a timbral level), one could have kept the whole under 50’, thus avoiding the risk of experiencing a smidgen of weariness at the end with what’s instead admirably played music, often poetic, even mathematically challenging at times, always informed by the right balance between discerning insight and top-rank methodological mastery. The couple, as per González’ account in the liners, spent quality time at the pianist’s home on a hill that dominates Lisbon. This confidence is perceivable all the way through, the musicians reciprocally responding to invitations and implications with delicacy and acumen, ultimately letting us forget about mere (and cold) technical issues thanks to a clear ability in catching resonating essences from the very air that surrounds them.
LUIS LOPES / ADAM LANE / IGAL FONI – What Is When
Guitar, double bass and drums, following the artist’s names order. Lopes thinks intensely to Sonny Sharrock (the dedicatee of the initial track “Evolution Motive” together with Charles Darwin) but also winks to early John Scofield, jarring angularity and a substantial dose of edginess still prevailing on the mass-approved tolerability of a fusion-tinged bluesy style. He’s a rather abstemious soloist after all, paying special attention to the correct placement of notes, not exactly longing for the sanitization of his sullied tone, which is a good thing in terms of originality. Lane offers a great performance throughout, the foremost traits being an overdriven bark containing the multi-purpose password for an actual crossing of genres and a grimily involving, arco-generated drone particularly manifest in the nearly elegiac “Cerejeiras” and in the closing solo “Perched Upon An Electric Wire”. Israel’s Foni is a surprise, at least to this writer who met him here for the first time. Freely flowing yet adult, constantly conscious about the place to be at every juncture, present at the right moment to unchain the bolder handiwork. A responsive companion for Lopes and Lane’s swapping of blows, a propulsive activity that never deteriorates.