Why would a listener consider Ajuda, a free jazz recording by the quartet of British saxophonist George Haslam and this Portuguese trio, to be a meditative production? Is it quiet? Not really. Is it a solo effort? Not at all. Is it focused inward? No, and yet, yes it is if we consider the synergistic effects of four improvising musicians performing in a simpatico flow state. Recorded on Haslam's day off in Lisbon from a working series he had scheduled with poet Miguel Martins, his live concert from 2019 is an attractive bonus.
We can only guess how this came about. Haslam met up with old friends, drummer Mário Rua, with whom he had previously recorded the duo Maresia (Slam Productions, 2016), and percussionist Pedro Castello Lopes (Ensemble MIA, Variable Geometry Orchestra). The three became four with Haslam's introduction to bassist João Madeira and music making was suggested. Haslam might be best known for his baritone saxophone work, but he sticks to the tárogató here. While most listeners might associate this reed instrument with Peter Brötzmann's flamethrower sound, Haslam takes a kinder, gentler approach here. The meditative aspect is due to the quartet making no grandiose statements. The four lengthy tracks focus on minutiae and distributing the various facets among all the players. The impressive arco bow work of Madeira shines throughout and the percussion and drumming of Lopes and Rua is perfectly accented and never overcrowded. Some free jazz is meant to be heard only once in concert or on record. That is not the case here. Ajuda warrants repeated spins.
Ajuda (Help); Nice To Meet You; Who Are You? Pleasures And Needs.
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