Susana Santos Silva Quintet: Devil's Dress (2011)
Matosinhos, a northern suburb of Oporto, Portugal, is renowned for its high quality fish and seafoodand, increasingly nowadays, its jazz. It is home to the 20-piece Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, best known internationally for its collaborations with veteran US saxophonist Lee Konitz and, most recently, with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel on Our Secret World (Wommusic, 2010)..
Now five young members of the band, under the leadership of trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, have come together to produce what they claim to be "a music without boundaries and preconceived ideas." They talk bravely of "new challenges and artistic conceptions" but jettison old staples such as melody and swing. The end result is self-conscious experimentation that ultimately doesn't make a great deal of sense.
The tone is set by the opening number, Silva's "Go," on which bassist Demian Cabaud leads the way into a discordant ensemble reminiscent of Gil Evans, post-Miles Davis. The leader interacts well with tenor saxophonist Zé Pedro Coelho for awhile, and competent solos from Coelho, Silva and Cabaud follow, but the song never really goes anywhere and neither does it arrive at a very convincing conclusion.
Only on the closing tune, "Anjo Da Guarda" are there hintsbut only hints, unfortunatelyof what might have been, had the bid to storm the heights of postmodernism been abandoned in favor of a thoughtful examination of the group's roots and an attempt made to infuse its jazz with that specifically Portuguese feeling of saudade, the atmosphere of melancholy and loss pervading the country's traditional folk music, fado.
The rock-influenced title track opens promisingly, comes close to swinging, but rapidly degenerates into discord, underpinned by heavy, menacing guitar from André Fernandes. There follows some low-key spacy squawking, before Silva manages to inject some melody but then the song just peters out. "Warmth" is one of the better numbers, starting in chaos and, while never really resolving into anything very coherent, there are high points that feature Silva's lyrical playing, backed by good, subdued guitar work and an interesting ending. Bassist Demian Cabaud's "En Febrero" is mournful with flashes of guitar brilliance, while "Wishful Thoughts" has some interesting twists and turns, along with echoes of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps."
These are young, talented musicians. It's a shame they have been unable, with this album, to put that talent to a more sensibly structured and better -ocused use. But, hopefully, there will be plenty of future opportunities to refine and develop their art.
Track Listing: Go; Devil's Dress; Warmth; En Febrero; Wishful Thoughts; Tomboy; Claudia; Anjo Da Guarda.
Personnel: Susana Santos Silva: trumpet, flugelhorn; Zé Pedro Coelho: tenor sax; André Fernandes: guitar; Demian Cabaud: bass; Marcos Cavaleiro: drums.