Palle Mikkelborg/Thomas Clausen – Even Closer (Arts Music)
Dennis González/João Paulo – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
Giovanni Falzone/Bruno Angelini – If Duo – Songs (Abeat)
Three duos between veteran trumpeters and pianists come in from Denmark, Portugal and Italy. Veterans of cold wars and glacial ice-bound ECM silences, pianist Thomas Clausen and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg weave ice-fogged, watercolors of shining aqueous hues and drifting interplay on Even Closer. Their melodic offerings, distilled into eerie exhalations and carved in icy sculpture, are straight forwardly crystalline. Glinting, spooky muted Miles Davis (cryo preserved from 1957) looms gently over the minimalist “When Lights Are Low” and “My Funny Valentine”. Anything but fragmented, these miniatures evoke Arctic winters: the cryptic “Do Not Speak” fades with unearthly whale whimpers, the flamenco-tinged “To Read Is To Dream” blurs on a shimmery horizon and the outer-spacey title track echoes Gershwin’s strawberries, freeze-dried on a glinting floe.
So Soft Yet is cantabile poems in a classic Euro-folkstyle. Texas trumpeter Dennis González plays four-square with little vibrato and affectation; Lisbon pianist João Paulo sounds classically schooled with a down-home bent. They weave in special effects from track to track, fueled by motoric rhythm loops. González pre-programs thirds on “Broken Harp” and the spooky closer “Augúrio”. Paulo strokes electric plunking basslines on “El Destierro”, folksy accordion stutters on “Deathless” and “Taking Root”, electric loops on “Broken Harp”. A couple of tracks recall the Enrico Rava/Paolo Fresu Italianate school, with blue fado wisps; one is reminiscent of Jill McManus’ Hopi melodies played sotto voce by Tom Harrell. Yet the duo’s sliding from one easy vamp to the next, rather than building their case with strong melodies, results in a date of pleasant if aimless noodling.
Following the Danes’ chill intensity and the Transatlantic duo’s breezy atmospherics, the team of Sicilian trumpeter Giovanni Falzone and Marseilles-born pianist Bruno Angelini convey nine edgy pieces, credited to Falzone, in a mutually sparking, downright theatrical atmosphere. By dint of varying tempos, timbres and moods, this highly accomplished pair succeed in putting across a vividly dramatic, witty, consistently engaging set. “Marì” leads with splashes of edgy avant guardia, as chance-taking improvisations whirl and fragment. Falzone shows splendid tone and superior melodicism while Angelini dazzles with double-time runs and darting notions that push on into “Salto nel Vuoto” as Falzone opens up handsome flutter-tongue figures. They shuffle “Maschere”(stately) and “Terra” (legato arpeggios) with comically grumbling quasi-scat (“Pineyurinoli”) and a manic off-Broadway two-beat rag (“Wizard”). Other poignant effects are Falzone’s diminutive wah-wah mute expanding to a sweeping legato on “Guardando illago” with Angelini’s comically chirrupy piano, a fast bluesy ostinato named after “Jean Cocteau” and a closing ballad that might complement a genially offhand Charlie Chaplin vignette.
DENNIS GONZÁLEZ/JOÃO PAULO – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
In questo cd insolito e raccoman-dabile assistiamo all’incontro fra il pianista portoghese, dalla pronuncia delicatamente narrativa, e il trombettista texano, di sette anni più vecchio, dalla personale pronuncia e sempre rigoroso nella dimensione misticheggiante delle sue collaborazioni. Nell’ottobre 2010 questo duo tenne un concerto a Nova Gorica, all’interno del festi-val Jazz & Wine of Peace, destando interesse tra gli addetti ai lavori per la vena meditativa, imprevedi-bile, divagante della sua musica di difficile catalogazione. Le improvvisazioni di «So Soft Yet», registrato in studio mesi prima, confermano quell’impressione, configurando un’evoluzione natura-le e distesa del dialogo melodico-ritmico, senza enfasi e impennate scabrose. La conduzione dinamica può risultare prudente e un po’ statica, l’approccio emotivo distac-cato, di pensosa austerità, ma la motivazione che guida l’incontro, profonda ed estremamente onesta, porta a momenti di sincera poesia.
DENNIS GONZÁLEZ / JOÃO PAULO – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
It’s not merely a matter of expertise. When artistic entities such as Dennis González and João Paulo meet, there’s a third factor in the equation, specifically an instinctive capacity of establishing with deadly accuracy how many pitches should get played, and how long or short they should be. Not to mention how certain silences weigh amidst these muted conversations. So Soft Yet, which follows Scapegrace (same label) is a 59-minute collection of dejected moods, evocative pastels and calm experimentations depicted by trumpet, cornet, acoustic and electric piano. It’s a fine testimonial – better than the previous one, if you ask me – of two musicians attempting to shine by evoking the ghost of an understated beauty instead of hiding behind technical brilliance (an element that, in case of doubt, lies at the basis of both beings). In pieces such as “El Destierro” a clairvoyance of sorts permits a reciprocal anticipation of the respective moves, the resulting music appearing superbly designed in its gradual development. The soulful sedimentation generated by these fragments of higher sceneries is something that a reviewer can’t stuff into a pot: just let the notes flow, realizing that implications are everywhere. Unspoken or less.
Dennis Gonzalez, Joao Paulo – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
Dennis Gonzalez over the years has shown himself not just as a creative and masterful trumpet player and important bandleader. He also composes some excellent music and, equally importantly, he plays and conceives most everything with a sort of thoughtful compositional deliberation. I’ve never heard a release of his that didn’t have its own reason for existence, a clear “thing” happening, a kind of focus.
With keyboardist Joao Paulo he has an ideal duo partner. Joao too has a deliberation in his spontaneity, a structural thinking inherent in his note and timbre choices.
So when they got together for a second volume of duets (see the July 6, 2009 article for a review of the first) these factors were again decisive in the resulting music, So Soft Yet (Clean Feed 243).
Joao Paulo gets a sound on the electric piano, plays a folk-free sort of accordion and uses the full scope of the conventional piano strings–plucked and sounded, dampened, regular key articulation, etc., to set the mood of each number. Of course it is also WHAT he plays that sets up the duet interaction. Simple pulsed riffs, freely unfolding tonal-centered flourishes, gospel-like rollers, lyrical balladic freedom, atmospheric ambiance, almost koto-like figures, rapid repeating and varying riffs that expand into free tonal interplay…I could go on.
And Dennis responds with a series of marvelous improvisations on C trumpet and Bb cornet, limber and eloquent, spontaneous and structured.
It’s another enormously engaging series of duets that are as pleasing to hear as they must have been a pleasure to play. Hear this one!
Dennis Gonzalez / João Paulo – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
Scape / Grace était un disque d’été, dont la musique ondulait au rythme du linge séché par le vent et se gorgeait du soleil qui caresse les collines surplombant Lisbonne. So Soft Yet témoigne des retrouvailles du pianiste portugais João Paulo et du trompettiste et cornettiste américain Dennis González deux ans et demi après l’enregistrement de Scape / Grace. Au cœur de l’hiver lisbonnais, lors du mois de janvier 2010, Dennis González et João Paulo se retrouvèrent donc pour offrir une suite à leur premier disque, gravée elle aussi sur le label Clean Feed records.
Au seul piano joué sur le précédent disque, Paulo lui adjoint ici l’accordéon (sur deux titres) et le piano électrique (sur cinq). La sonorité rêveuse du premier imprime à la musique une certaine nostalgie, tandis que le second crée un climat de ciel obscurci et un paysage de reliefs tranchants. Mais on n’aime jamais autant la musique de ces deux-là que quand elle revient à ses fondamentaux, quand elle réitère le miracle de la première rencontre musicale : piano et trompette, en de longs entremêlements monochromes comme en de plus précipités dialogues irisés.
Dennis Gonzalez & Joao Paulo – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
So Soft Yet (Clean Feed) is an album of beauty and depth. For me this latest collaboration between Gonzalez and Da Silva has even more resonance than their first stellar partnership on 2009’s Scrape Grace (Clean Feed). This might be due to the longer relationship together and the new material that feels both more unified and diverse.
“Como a Noite” opens the session in a delightful and romantic fashion. Filling the void with lush poetic tones both musicians are taking you on journey that will include some extraordinary exaltation as well as moments of deep reflection. “Broken Harp” has the feeling of Chick Corea and Miles Davis playing solo. Da Silva switches to electric piano and deploys some terrific and spellbinding notes. It has deep psychedelic grooves with some nice improvising from both men. Gonzalez travels up and down with a crisp and reverberating tone that along with Da Silva becomes hypnotic towards the closing passages.
So Soft Yet is deeply rooted in a more interpersonal manner that allows the listener to sink deeper and deeper into music. “Thirst” sees Da Silva on accordion and the conversation the two musicians have is playful and jubilant. The Portuguese elements are well present on this piece as it feels like you’re traveling blindfolded down the town street just listening to all the sounds and creating your journey. Lovely stuff.
“Sobre Mi Mi Koracon Doloryozo” is my personal favourite. It’s a celebratory piece that is both buoyant and joyous. Gonzalez and Da Silva have a unison that feels like two classical musicians who have performed together for decades. “Augurio” closes the session with dark parameters intertwined past fusion eras with modern eclecticism with beautiful harmonies.
A partnership that started essentially out of nowhere, these two renowned and revered musicians have made two astounding records in just under three years. So Soft Yet is a cool document that expands the floats with high spiritual moments that spread delicately across space and time. Emotional material and highly recommended listening.