Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Pensively Intriguing Improvisations With Guitarist Andre Matos’ and His Vast Vault of Online Collaborations

We’re still digging out from the glut of recordings made over the web since the lockdown, and one of the most intriguing is a series of projects by guitarist Andre Matos. Aptly titled On the Shortness of Life – a quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca – it’s a series of pensive, sometimes atmospheric, mostly duo pieces streaming at Bandcamp. Matos’ most persistent trope here involves constructing spiky, incisive. sometimes subtly disquieting layers around tersely drifting melodies, often using a slide.

The obvious comparison is Bill Frisell‘s loopmusic. Both guitarists explore the pastoral as well as the noir and don’t waste notes; if anything, Matos plays with an even greater economy here. Most of these tracks originated when the guitarist asked his wide and talented circle to send him improvisations he could play over; a few of these numbers are his colleagues’ responses to his own creations. Matos typically overdubs additional layers using a wide palette of electric and acoustic effects. Most of the numbers in this vast collection are on the short side, many under two minutes. Matos encourages listeners to pick their favorites and create their own playlists.

The album opens with a lingering, reverbtoned, brightly verdant sunrise scene sent in by pianist Richard Sears and closes with their much more somber sunset theme. The album’s most expansive interlude is the enigmatic title track, Matos’ lingering, minimalistic accents around João Lencastre’s slowly tumbling drums and misty hardware. The drummer turns out to be a great sparring partner, the two building deep-space quasi-Wallesonics, icier and more sparse tableaux, and blue-flame rubato delta blues.

Matos’ wife, the brilliant singer Sara Serpa joins him on three tracks: a study in spiky clusters versus ambience (and a couple of great jokes); a tongue-in-cheek, goofy little tree-frog tableau; and a tantalizing miniature with some surprisingly trad scatting.

Matos joins with keyboardist Dov Manski to assemble spare bits and pieces of warmly pastoral phrases over ominously looming atmospherics. A duet with bassist André Carvalho rises to catchy pastoralia, ending with a virtual game of catch-and-follow. Tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger contributes the most animated, singalong melody, Matos bending and weaving around it. Another tenor player, Nathan Blehar – who’s represented several times here – adds a similarly upbeat, tuneful interlude later on.

The album’s usual dynamic turns inside out with Matos’ calmly rhythmic, echoing phrases against trumpeter Gonçalo Marques’ gritty, increasingly intense volleys of circular breathing. The same happens later with bassist Demian Cabaud’s whirling high harmonics and wild swoops. There’s an immense amount of music to choose from here.

June 2, 2021 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Jeremy Udden – Plainville

Sax player Jeremy Udden’s latest cd Plainville is a gentle, laid-back, warm and often very beautiful album. Eighty years ago, country musicians started messing around with jazz and western swing was born; this decade has been much the opposite, with a lot of jazz composers diving into country music. It might seem incongruous that Udden would represent his old Massachusetts hometown (north of Attleboro, over by the Rhode Island border: PawSox territory) with motifs more closely associated with the Old West, but maybe those motifs should be taken out of their usual context – there’s a fondly thoughtful, frequently nostalgic feel to this album. And it’s a real feel-good story, a comeback for Udden, who’d been rendered unable to play for a year while recovering from a debilitating case of vertigo. The lineup here is unorthodox and imaginative, Udden leading the band on alto and soprano sax, Pete Rende on manual pump organ or Fender Rhodes and Brandon Seabrook alternating between banjo and acoustic and electric guitars plus a rhythm section. Stylistically, Udden’s big debt is to Bill Frisell – to say that some of these songs would sound perfectly at home on a recent Frisell album is a compliment well deserved.  

The album’s centerpiece, Christmas Song, is absolutely gorgeous, Udden playing comfortably and soulfully over Nathan Blehar’s warmly incisive nylon-string guitar that gives way to a hushed bass solo and then the band picking it up, capping it with joyously swirling pump organ. It’s a holiday song for anybody wishing for something more substantial than what the radio bombards us with starting the day after Thanksgiving.

Another highlight is the steady, jangly, methodical 695, with the feel of a road song, pushed along by Udden on the cymbals this time. There’s a big crescendo with the Rhodes, then the instruments fall away gracefully, one after the other. The gentle waltz Red Coat Lane is spiked with banjo, a fluttery keyboard riff sneaking its way in mischievously. Put this on and get distracted for a moment, and you might think you hear somebody’s phone going off in the background. The most overtly jazzy of the cuts here, the bustling Big Lick introduces a dark undercurrent, acoustic guitar pedaling a single jarring note beneath a characteristically carefree series of changes. The cd concludes with the thoughtfully evocative Empty Lots, a tone poem of sorts opening with sparse bass over atmospheric organ, the rest of the band easing their way in, rubato. Like the aforemention Mr. Frisell’s latest work, this is a welcoming, heartwarming cd, the kind of album that could hit the spot just as much after a productive Sunday afternoon as for cocktail hour after a rough day at work. Watch this space for upcoming live dates.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment