Peixe Frito

Jazz from Here
Last Pork Records LPR 001

Dormant and discouraged until about 1974, at the end of nearly 50 years of Europe’s longest lasting fascist dictatorship, Portuguese Jazz has quickly developed to the point it’s now a vibrant part of the contemporary European scene. Accessibility also means that a variant of local Free Jazz has developed that has now evolved to maturity. Pointedly titled Jazz from Here, this session offers nine distinctive instant compositions from a quintet of accomplished post-New State players.

Some have long been involved in the local scene, such as reedist Paulo Chagas of the Variable Geometry Orchestra and Ensemble MIA, trumpeter/electronic manipulator Luís Guerreiro and drummer Pedro Santo. Guitarist Paulo Duarte plays in London with many ensembles, and demonstrates that innovative musicians are imported as well as exported. Meanwhile bassist Alvaro Rosso is a Uruguayan who has established himself in Portugal.

While textures are coordinated with the same frequency as they’re deconstructed and Peixe Frito (“friend fish”) is conceived of as primarily as a group project, there are still plenty of opportunities for sonic individualism. “My Neighbors' Psychedelic Gathering” for instance depends on a distinctive mixture of bristling flute twitters, trumpet puffs and drum clip clops, with electronic samples which encompasses veiled pulses, pseudo nightclub lounge sounds and some guttural vocalizing. These multifold strategies are commonly expressed throughout with, for instance, a gorgeous mid-range trumpet grace note abutting a tympani backbeat, or wildly caffeinated guitar shakes and distortions interrupting an otherwise straight-ahead ballad interchange from the rest of the band.

Still extended tracks such as “That Was Not What We Had Planned” provide even more latitude for idea expression. Somewhat of a saxophone showcase, this piece allows Chagas to display his corrosive reed virtuosity which varies from impatient cries and raspy tongue slaps to unbroken multiphonic elaborations in multiple pitches. But there’s also space for perky plunger tones from Guerreiro that suggest 1970s electrified Miles Davis, guitar twangs and flanges, double bass string buzzing and drum shuffles. No matter how many times the exposition is smashed into fragments however the five overcome the inchoate consequent to create a narrative that ambles towards a finale that’s both swinging and sophisticated.

Obviously this track and others weren’t planned in that formal a manner. But its unpremeditated strength coupled with other improvisations on the CD demonstrates how advanced Portuguese-based improv has established in the country during the 21st Century.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Coltrane's Back Scratcher 2. Anyway, So It Goes 3. Short Run I 4. My Neighbors' Psychedelic Gathering 5. Short Run II 6. Near the Clay Basin (Prelude) 7.Swing from the Zone 8. 9. Stoned Water

Personnel: Luís Guerreiro (trumpet, electronics, Tibetan bowl); Paulo Chagas (soprano and alto saxophone and flute); Paulo Duarte (guitar); Alvaro Rosso (bass) and Pedro Santo (drums)