Thurston Moore/Gabriel Ferrandini/Pedro Sousa – Live at ZDB (Shh10)
Survival Records, October Revolution in Jazz, Tzadik and The Stone, Studio Rivbea, Jazz Composers Guild, El Saturn Records, Company Week and Incus, Mopomoso, Debut Records; there is a well established precedent of Free music practitioners having to create their own opportunities for exposure. Thurston Moore offers an alternative to this template. Sure, he has established his own record label, and helped curate concert series and festivals. But where his contribution really differs is in the profile he has within mainstream culture, and the manner in which that platform has been used to espouse the merits of what interests and informs him. A staunch champion of Free music, Moore once claimed to be interested in “playing with anyone” which has lead to countless ad hoc groupings with less-than-household names (as well as many of the cream of the current Free Improvisers). In addition to which, many of his recordings have been issued by small independent labels, affording them increased visibility often outside of their usual demographic.
With the release of this live set recorded in Lisbon, Moore has killed both these birds with one stone. Saxophonist Pedro Sousa (Pão) and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini (Red Trio) have been rightly lauded on these pages, and whilst their names are not entirely unfamiliar, this release affords them both individual attention and an opportunity to step out from behind the relative anonymity of their band’s names. Similarly, fledgling Portugese label Shhpuma, baby brother to the excellent Clean Feed, now has its own turn in the sun.
According to the label’s promotional spiel, during pre-gig discussion the trio had agreed they would “play soft, focusing on the details”. They do not keep to this plan for long. Ferrandini and Sousa are straining at the leash almost from the off, the saxophonist’s overblown textures keening to erupt, the drums verge on bubbling over, seemingly trying to goad the guitarist into following. Moore, so often the noisenik in these situations, is the coolest head, playing the long game like an old master. He keeps pace as the others race ahead without being fully drawn into the fray, calming the initial impetuousness with languid feedback lines. In so doing, part of the game plan remains intact and textural ‘detail’ becomes the foundation, albeit roughly hewn rather than ‘soft’.
Texture is Moore’s stock in trade and the grumbling low-end smears of Sousa’s tenor and baritone work well in this context, furthered by the gritty electronics he deploys which often shadow or add surface detail to the contorted guitar lines. Ferrandini interjects serrated accents amid his propulsive percussion, often coalescing around the more knotted clamour as inertia pulls inextricably toward the red. The trio play with this sense of tension for the duration of the set, on countless occasions the heat their momentum generates seems certain to fully ignite and finally submit to its incendiary potential. However, even at its most scorched it feels like a controlled burn, with a large depth of field to the dynamics.
This inaugural encounter smoulders with potential and suggests more to come should the trio ever be reprised. Moore is on a fine run of form at the moment, as this blog will attest. Long may it continue.