Bernardo Sassetti and his “Motion” Recording
Bernardo Sassetti Trio – Motion (CF 177)
As I auditioned Bernardo Sassetti’s new album Motion (Clean Feed 177) I caught myself thinking, “Some artists are so subtle, you actually have to listen to them.” Then I thought, “What are you nuts? All artists must be listened to!” But, face it, some music is so predictable it almost listens to itself. You set your ears to the coarse grained sample mode. You pop the mental sampler on and register, “OK, there’s a bop lick. . . yes, walking bass. . . .ding ding da-ding on the cymbals.”
I had a heavy blues listening phase when I was young, and then went on for a while to other musics. Looking back at that time a little later I first thought that emotionally and mentally I needed something completely redundant and predictable because of all the change I experienced in my life in those days. Later, when I returned to the blues and kept it in the things I actively listened to again, I didn’t feel that way anymore and by then I tried to listen to that and any other music at hand with the mental sample mode as fine tuned to “continuous” as possible in the world we are in today.
Clifford Geertz once complained that he could no longer entertain only one thought because the telephone would ring and. . . there would then be two thoughts. Nowdays having only the telephone as interrupter and only two thoughts seem charmingly quaint. There are literally hundreds of potential interruptions from computer internet activities and such. Multi-tasking is common and almost impossible to get away from. But still the idea that music must be heard continuously to be appreciated remains completely true.
So then back to Bernardo Sassetti’s trio and their new album. Redundancy is very little in evidence. This is a pianist who takes Evans and Jarrett as stepping stones but then actually goes beyond those influences to be himself. And that self is richly lyrical, harmonically sophisticated, melodically profound, and not inclined toward repetition in any sense. His bandmates Carlos Barretto and Alexandre Frazao, bass and drums, hold tightly to the almost sacred eminence coming out of Sassetti’s piano. They hold tight to what he does and really complement it.
There are strings of lusciously subtle ballads here, as well as some rock inflected or Latin inflected numbers, and some brief free type sojourns, even use of some “found sounds” electro-acoustically at one point. Everything is rather remarkable. It’s so subtle and sophisticated that you cannot ignore it because you just won’t get anything out of it at that level. Listen or just don’t bother. If you do listen, you’ll be in for one of the nicest and most original of the tonal piano trios out there. We reach levels of sublimity perhaps only the piano trio is capable of attaining. It’s extraordinarily intimate, extraordinarily inventive. Extraordinary. I mean that.
Lawnmower: Two Electric Guitars, Alto Sax, Drums Play the Unexpected
Lawnmower – West (CF 178 )
Drummer and Musical Sculptor Luther Gray apparently spent many hours of his formative life mowing lawns while listening to music on a walkman. It was a place and time where Gray heard a wide variety of styles reflecting his changing musical interests. With the CD West (Clean Feed 178) by his group Lawnmower he puts together an intriguing set that reflects the experience, filtered by the softening of the edges of musical memory with time.
It’s Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton on electric guitars, Jim Hobbs on alto sax, and of course Gray himself. This is music with a difference. The guitars use tremolo, feedback and drone blocks of sound to evoke an earlier era. Hobbs adds a distinctively sharp alto sax, and Gray plays a variety of drum roles, from quiet freedom to pulsation.
It’s a kind of reflective free psychedelic raga jazz. Most importantly, it works as a most interesting and evocative musical event. It certainly references obliquely an earlier period (late ’60s-early ’70s) in contemporary music. It is very evolved, a sophisticated offshoot of the psychedelic freak outs some people made in their garages or at the end of the school dances back then. Only it’s just much better than most if not virtually all of that.
In fact it is one of those great ideas musically. It’s a great idea that comes off to near perfection. Don’t expect hot licks. It’s an ensemble effort. A group painting in sound color. It’s rather daring. It’s fully engaging. You get the point.
Bernardo SassettiTrio – Motion (CF 177)
Quite often, when hearing compositions by pianist Bernardo Sassetti, it’s easy to mistake him for an American. His folksy charm has that Aaron Copland-meets-Bill Frisell kind of Americana. But no, this huge talent is Portugal’s own son.
He is back again in a trio setting with bassist Carlos Barretto and drummer Alexandre Frazão. The three recorded Sassetti’s critically acclaimed Nocturno (Clean Feed, 2001) and Ascent (Clean Feed, 2005). But Sassetti can also be heard in accordionist Wil Holshouser’s Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns (Clean Feed, 2010).
Maybe the Americana sound comes from Sassetti’s film work. A prolific film score producer, he includes music here from two films and a theater production.
With great interest in delicacy, and a passion for minimalism, the trio avoids grand gestures , playing with litotes and swinging by exaggerating the non-swinging aspects of each tune. Perhaps that is the pure authenticity of this trio’s expression.
Due to the inclusion of pieces from film and theater, changes in atmosphere shift the varying concepts. The trio plays with spinning a radio dial on several tracks, improvising off the airways a blues on “MW 108.7 Revival” and a sampled auction on the “Motion II” suite. There is a visual component to Sassetti’s music that makes for an enlightened listening experience.