In A History Of Nothing, Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado helms a stunning lesson in group interchange and shifting dynamics on five seat-of-the-pants excursions. Captured in a studio in the midst of a European tour, the album reunites the reedman with the starry crew responsible for This Is Our Language (NotTwo, 2015), namely veteran multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Chris Corsano. In doing so it presents four musicians at the top of their game.
If the last disc suggested an oblique Ornette Coleman connection, on this occasion the link is slightly more tangible, with the opening "Legacies" mining the same seam of exquisite melancholy as Coleman's "Lonely Woman." With its understated melodicism and rubato meditations, it serves as a enthralling overture to the set, all the more powerful for avoiding the fire music which these guys are so adept at delivering. That comes soon enough.
Last time out, McPhee majored on trumpet, but here he spends more time on soprano saxophone, which contrasts pleasingly with Amado's gruff tenor. That juxtaposition gets a thorough airing in the back and forth saxophone sorcery of the title cut, where after the initial snap and quack, it's as if they are in a relay, as first one then the other takes up the running with the rhythm team. After McPhee's pocket trumpet wrings notes until dry husks in the intro, horn skirmishing also weighs in heavily on "Wild Flowers," particularly towards the close where his skirling soprano jostles with Amado's boppish tenor, both men waxing sweeter than might be anticipated in an exciting conclusion.
Of course Kessler and Corsano also feature strongly, most notably in a lengthy lead in to "Theory of Mind (For Joe)," which McPhee sits out, with the bassist channeling the gravitas of a Charlie Haden, shaded by Corsano's shimmers, rolls and washes. When he breaks into a scratchy arco later in the piece, it's matched by Amado's yapping skronk which ultimately develops into an elongated tirade. The well-rounded session finishes with "The Hidden Desert" which ranges from percussive tapping to droney ambience, before McPhee's extemporized melody ushers in a passage of spacious interplay and a breathy finale. Together they've forged a free jazz classic likely to figure on many end of year lists.
Legacies; A History of Nothing; Theory of Mind (For Joe); Wild Flowers; The Hidden Desert.
Rodrigo Amado: tenor saxophone; Joe McPhee: pocket trumpet, soprano saxophone; Kent Kessler: double
bass; Chris Corsano: drums.