Lisbon's Jazz em Agosto
and touring they've reached that magical point of "yeah, we meant to do that improvisation, where elements seem predetermined if not preconceived. Mori was the only purely electronic musician at the festival, although a number of groups implemented laptops and processing as a part of their sound. A meeting of the Danish trio Sound of Choice and the French string quartet IXI presented slight, if nicely arranged, compositions. Likewise the Norwegian quintet Wibutee made precise, effective use of looping and samples, but without material to push them beyond a new century of lounge music. Drummer Jerry Granelli's V-16 pitted a father-and-son rhythm section against two electric guitars (replete with pedals) for a wandering set that incorporated, to varying degrees, Mingus, Otis Redding and a bit of bossa nova. The excellent Swiss trio Koch/Schutz/Studer seemed distracted by their circuits and cables for the first half of their set, only getting into their "hardcore chamber groove once they switched to acoustic cello and unprocessed horns (drummer Fredy Studer chugged along reliably, whatever his cohorts did). The most unusual use of electronics was an odd solo set by Portuguese pianist and journalist Jorge Lima Barreto, who played variations suggesting Cecil Taylor and Erik Satie against the squeals of a shortwave radio positioned next to him. The intention was hard to peg, but the contrast was refreshingly unexpected.
Several acts performed without the safety net of a rhythm section. New York cellist Erik Friedlander performed solo, playing old and new compositions of his own, as well as pieces from John Zorn's Masada songbook, with a virtuosity that was astounding. German reedman Gebhard Ullmann's Ta Lam Zehn - nine horns and an accordion - were remarkably tight, playing taut composed pieces to precision. The French duo of clarinetist Jean-Marc Fotz and bassist Bruno Chevillon displayed a knack for following each other for what was only their second concert together; the bass clarinet and prepared bull fiddle sang together especially well. And a trumpet trio of Jean Luc Cappozzo, Axel Dorner and Herb Robertson turned out to be a triad of extended techniques, with slowly muted melody lines, punctuated bright riffs and sputters and scrapes, often contraposed, occasionally in tandem.
If there is a complaint to be made about the festival - at least from the point of view of a visitor - it's that so few Lisboetas were presented. Besides Barreto, the only Portuguese group was Raum, who delivered a tight set of bass-and-drum driven compositions. Led by guitarist Paulo D. Duarte, the group broke no new ground, but the suite - built around the seven deadly sins - was taut, well arranged and strongly played, especially for a nonet of young musicians. The festival itself is held on the beautiful grounds that contain the foundation's museums and is home to its symphony and ballet. No doubt it's exciting for the Portuguese audience to get the rare chance to see some of the best and most established of the world's jazz improvisors, but this cultural tourist was left wanting for more local seasonings.
SIDEBAR: NEW PORTUGESE CDS
- Joe Giardullo & Carlos Zingaro - Falling Water: Live at Mae Agua (Drimala)
- Punctual Trio - Grammar (Rossbin)
- Barry Weisblat / Alfredo Costa Monteiro / Ernesto Rodrigues - Diafon (Creative Sources)
- Bernardo Sassetti - Indigo (Clean Feed)
Lisbon's jazz and experimental scenes have been kept largely secret from the rest of the worldin part, no doubt, because they are relatively small, but they hold at least as much riches per capita as many European cities. And through the efforts of labels like Clean Feed and Creative Sources, those sounds are beginning to be exported to other parts of the world.
One of the bigger names to come out of Portuguese improv is violinist Carlos Zingaro, who started his performing life in the 1970s in a more mainstream approach and has expanded his approach to playing with the likes of Derek Bailey, Joelle Leandre and Richard Teitelbaum. He still swings a bit at times (see The Space Between with Rodrigo Amado and Ken Filano, released by Clean Feed in 2003), but is more often found in the world of extended sound. Falling Water is a particularly gorgeous example of his rich, sonorous playing. Recorded with saxophonist Joe Giardullo in an 18th century Lisbon aquaduct with nine seconds of natural reverb and water flowing behind them, the disc is a beautiful aural photograph. At times the saxophone overwhelms the violin a bit, but each player also takes unaccompanied passages. Zingaro performs more outside of Portugal than at home, and has developed a strong trio with Chicago players cellist Fred Longerg-Holm and electronics manipulator Lou Mallozzi. Their first recording is an odd but engaging affair of scrapes and whirs, with Mallozzi dropping turntable cues in the midst, creating a nice mix of humor and quiet expressiveness.