Portugal is one of the most free-jazz friendly countries on the planet, and the innovative Clean Feed label is one of the reasons why. With over two hundred releases thus far, Clean Feed has been documenting the next wave(s) of avant-free music. This includes the mighty Trespass Trio, a powerhouse group of improvisers consisting of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen, Norwegian double bassist Per Zanussi
. Clean Feed released Trespass Trio's debut Was There to Illuminate the Night Sky (2009), their follow-up Bruder Beda (2012), and now the stellar Human Encore. The album features the trio with the eminent American saxophonist Joe McPhee
, and offers highlights from the group's residency at the 2012 Jazz ao Centro festival in Coimbra, Portugal.
All eight tunes are flat-out gorgeous, particularly the opening track, "A Desert on Fire, a Forest." According to Küchen's liner notes, the title refers to the horrific wars of the 1940s in both Europe and Palestine: "Those 'fires' have not been extinguished, on the contrary, there are more and more of them...do u feel the heat?" If not, this gut-wrenching tune will ensure that you do: McPhee's tenor and Küchen's baritone start off with mournful, pensive dirges that are profoundly disquieting and heartbreakingly lovely. The horns repeatedly intertwine and split off, coming back a little wilder each time. Zanussi's bass is gentle and precise, and Strid's skipping, rolling drumwork sounds like water on the verge of boiling. The song fades into plaintive spaciousness, and in one of those fortuitous moments of live music, a car alarm goes off and provides the perfect ending. It's a marvelous tune, full of haunting sorrow and somber beauty.
There's also the stunning "Xe," which features McPhee on pocket trumpet and Küchen on bass. The tune starts off with a gorgeous bass and drum duet by Zanussi and Strid, full of shimmering spaces and colors. Zanussi really shines on this song, his sonorous plucking revealing just how much one note can say. Another gem is "Bruder Beda Ist Nicht Nehr" (Brother Bede Is No More). Bruder Beda was a relative of Küchen, a Jewish German who became a Catholic monk and was killed in Auschwitz. The tune is thirteen minutes strong, starting with a whistling, squiggling solo from McPhee on pocket trumpet, which includes more live-music serendipity in the form of a barking dog. Küchen contributes a relentless vibrating line, which incites McPhee to blast out louder and stronger. Strid creates a quicksand of rhythm that perfectly supports the others, and Zanussi's bass is deeply buoyant, propelling the group with a fast-forward motion. As the song escalates, McPhee switches to tenor for an on-fire solo that incites vocalizations from Küchen, creating a wild and soulful explosion of deepest passion and humanity.
Human Encore is full of fiery brilliance, which is not surprising given the strength of the players involved. It's also further proof of Clean Feed's fine work, as well as the veritable explosion of music emanating from Portugal.
Track Listing: A Desert on Fire, a Forest; Bruder Beda Ist Nicht Mehr; Xe; Coimbra, Mon Amour; A Different Koko; In Our Midst; Human Encore; A Desert on Fire, a Forest (First Day Take).
Personnel: Joe McPhee: tenor saxophone, pocket trumpet, ; Martin Kuchen: alto and baritone saxophone; Per Zanussi: double bass; Raymond Strid: drums.