Coreto is an eleven-piece jazz ensemble from the Portuguese city of Porto. Aljamia
, its début release, is also among the first albums to emerge from Porta-Jazz, an association of Porto jazz musicians.
Leader and alto saxophonist/flautist João Pedro Brandão is a student of the multilayered musical traditions of the Mediterranean. The region is a remarkably rich amalgam of ancient and modern, European and African and Arabic ingredients. The learned quality of Brandão's six compositions for Aljamia
bears witness to this wealth of inspiration, but the record is not a visit to an ethno-musicological museum where the pieces of the musical mix are dissected under glass. The many musical strands of Brandão's passion remain as intertwined here as they do in the best examples of living, breathing music on both shores of the Mediterranean.
And they swing. Above all, this is a jazz record. And jazz, born of musical syncretism in New Orleans (like Porto, a port city), once again proves particularly well-adapted to merger with other mashed-up musical forms. The North African musical elements on tracks like the montuno
-like piano-and-drums groove midway through "Satírico" sit comfortably with jazz harmonies. The performances are rhythmically and dynamically complex and pleasing.
The highlights of this disc are many. Agile arrangements recall no-one quite so much as Argentinian Guillermo Klein
. Klein and Coreto are two far-flung branches on the same tree, of course, so this is not entirely surprising. More to the point, perhaps, they're also probably listening to the same records. Klein is among the finest arrangers of larger-ensemble jazz on the global scene today, so this is good company for Brandão and his band.
The compositions, too, are affecting, as are the performances. "Danças a Leste," with pianist Alexandre Dahmen's African-tinged introduction, leads to a fluid dialogue among the horns. The smoky opening harmonies of "Corrente," out of which baritone saxophonist Rui Teixeira's snakes cautiously, would not be out of place in a Gil Evans
arrangement, while "Ensaio Primeiro" is a loping blues with a modal, Iberian bridge.
Long performances make room for some fine solos: trumpeter Susana Santos Silva
's suitably Arabic-informed intervention on the opening "Kalenderi"; Brandão on alto sax on the gentle "Aeroporto"; and bassist José Carlos Barbosa on "Ensaio Primeiro."
The record is attractively packaged, with an especially-appreciated accounting of who is soloing where. Excellent marks all around.
Ricardo Formoso: trumpet; Susana Santos Silva: trumpet; Daniel Dias: trombone; Andreia
Santos: trombone; João Pedro Brandão: alto saxophone, flute; José Pedro
Coelho: tenor saxophone; Fernando Sanchez: tenor saxophone; Rui Teixeira: baritone
saxophone; Alexandre Dahmen: piano; José Carlos Barbosa: double bass; José