Daily Archives: July 2, 2008

Bagatellen review by Clifford Allen

The debut disc of Lisbon guitarist Luis Lopes continues in the Clean Feed tradition of Portuguese-American freebop combos, something that is fast becoming a hallmark of the label’s aesthetic. Lopes is joined by tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, a fast-rising star of European improvisation, and the rhythm team of bassist Aaron Gonzalez and drummer Stefan Gonzalez, sons of Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis who has already ensconced himself in the Lisbon scene. It’s ambitious for a leader debut to be a program entirely original tunes, even in a seemingly post-everything milieu such as we have today, but the guitarist’s written lines acquit themselves well, not least of which because of the chosen supporting cast.
It’s apt that the brothers Gonzalez were chosen as the rhythm team – after all, Lopes has a rock pedigree (whatever that means anymore), which fits well with the punk-weaned pair of Yells At Eels fame. Their “rock” rhythms are dissective, acoustic tides on the parallel slink of the opening “Cristadingo,” a brilliant minor-key call of gruff tenor and gauzy plectra bells. As Amado digs in his heels, the band becomes a power trio, Lopes laying out as a plastic three-way volley is tossed. If Amado is a searcher in the keening vein of a saxophone preacher, the muted, behind-the-beat and wholly introspective worrying plucks and dissociative blues that the guitarist spins out is of a different quest altogether. They’re both inward, but by nature Lopes is far less exuberant than Amado – McLaughlin and Ray Russell he is not. Rather, he appears like a ghostly Moorish apparition in the middle of a blues-rock solo as minimalist arpeggios appear, only to be broken into long-legged chunks and faded away. Alternately, the grungy slabs he churns out in agitated drops nearly suspends time on “4 Small Steps.” Rarely does he comp behind the soloist as would a traditional guitarist; if he doesn’t lay out completely, swirls of subtle feedback accent Amado’s tenor, as on “Paso,” drawing out the reedman’s phrases into, alternately, long tones or the contrast of sputtering staccato. Of course, it’s never that simple – there’s a constant give and take, a constant play of form between smooth and sharp, long and short, a constellation that’s always in motion. “Big Love” is an homage to Joe Giardullo, a line that would sound interesting translated to it’s dedicatee’s sinewy unaccompanied soprano, but with Amado in charge of solo duties, it’s a series of muscular, brusque blats and lofty false-fingering. It’s a curious thing that Lopes doesn’t always choose to solo on his compositions, that he takes a backseat to democracy, and at times I wished for more obvious solo entreaties despite his surreal presence being felt. By virtue of his compositions and the tack he takes when he’s in the spotlight, unaccompanied Luis Lopes would be a treat. But he’s brought heavy company, and this is an intriguing and meaty debut.

All About Jazz review by Dean Christesen

Angles – Every Woman is a Tree (CF 112)

Every Woman is a Tree is dedicated to the women of Iraq, whose children cling to their branches for protection during this time of war. It asks the brutal question of what happens to the children when the branches are cut and the tree is killed, as well as questions of leadership and societal upbringing. The six musicians of Angles make this a personal matter through their music, as each track is unified by the sense that the men are all deeply affected by current worldly affairs. From the opening piece, an overwhelming frustration and even disgust with the world’s current state is apparent. The music depicts a 21st-century depression: a poverty of life and mercy augmented by a wealth of war, violence and terror.
The album is not to be compared to a tribute to an event in history or recent disaster; it is a potentially timeless piece of music that avoids geographic or dated cliches and is more effective because of that. The musical information parallels the poetry of saxophonist and leader Martin Kuchen’s liner notes, but not as one would expect. For example, the title track is a beautiful concept in writing that sounds less like a memorial to mothers than a child’s journey to seek protection of a branch in a land ridded of trees. “Don’t ruin me” finds shocking harmonies in the horns laying atop mountains of a power-hungry rhythm section. Even the last track, ”Let’s talk about the weather (and not about the war),” toys with a tritonic Charleston rhythm over a melody in despair.

The three horn players would not be out of place on a post-bop gig, but they flex their muscles here for a different purpose, a new cause and a problem pertinent to now. Free-metered sections collide with smashing beats led by drummer Kjell Nordeson and haunting ostinatos by bassist Johan Berthling. Kuchen conducts his group—which often contains the energy and activity of a big band—through his horn and with audible vocal cues, not unlike Charles Mingus, which only adds to the music’s mystique. Brisk runs up and down the horn are matched with birdcall flurries and the screeching might similar to that of Eric Dolphy.

All six pieces steer away from harmonically major moments and mostly avoid any sounds of joy or relief. And why should they not? It’s an honest and accurate portrait of the world. Every Woman is a Tree tells the story of now.

Jornal de Letras review by Sofia Freire

Luís Lopes – Humanization 4tet (CF 105)

O espírito de abertura à criatividade e à comunicação entre os músicos, de forma livre, espontânea e intensa é uma das grandes virtudes da Jazz, senão mesmo toda a sua essência. Pois bem, é mesmo essa essência que aqui ficou registada, em Humanization 4tet. Um álbum do guitarrista Luís Lopes, que convida, a partir de composições suas, a uma sessão de improvisação totalmente livre. Esta é uma forma priviligiada em que ressalta toda a personalidade e qualidades dos músicos que o acompanham. O saxofonista Rodrigo Amado, assenta em terreno familiar, não apenas por estar a tocar entre amigos, mas pelo estilo livre, em si, que já o trata por tu. Continua a mostrar-se em grande forma e com o seu habitual fulgor gravoso habitual do barítono, mas aqui, com o tenor. Também os irmãos Aaron (contrabaixo) e Stefan Gonzalez (bateria), seguindo as passadas do pai, o referenciado trompetista, Dennis Gonzalez, mostram estar em casa, neste contexto de liberdade. A linha de improvisação de Luís Lopes revela-se num estilo de conversação curioso, com alguns toques minimalistas, rockeiros, e com uma carga de blues que consolida alguma sensualidade e o groove caloroso desta verdadeira humanização. A não perder!

Tom Hull review

Luis Lopes: Humanization 4Tet (CF 105)
Don’t know much about Lopes — a couple of google matches appear to be false positives. This one plays guitar, is probably Portuguese, wrote all the pieces on his first album. The other players are slightly more well known: Aaron Gonzalez (double bass) and Stefan Gonzalez (drums) are sons of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez. Rodrigo Amado is a Portuguese tenor saxophonist who’s put together a number of solid albums, both under his own name and with Lisbon Improvisation Players (which has been known to include Gonzalez père). Amado’s full-voiced honking dominates here, but a section where the guitar leads takes on much the same melodic shape, so I figure the guitarist is always pushing this music along even when he’s not conspicuous. Another clue is that this is probably Amado’s strongest outing yet, mostly because he rarely gets a chance to let up. B+(***)