No one knows what the landscape for live jazz will look like in the near future, but it is fair to assume that New York
will continue as centers of gravity with Johannesburg
making a strong challenge. Here is a long-shot bet: don't sleep on Buenos Aires
. If your idea of Argentine jazz is limited to tango or Gato Barbieri, prepare to be startled at what Camila Nebbia
and her nonet of young players are doing on Aura
The recording explodes out of the blocks with a whirlwind of references. Is that phantasmagorical vortex after the annunciatory opening fanfare of "Las manos" a nod to anarchic European midsize ensembles such as the Instant Composers Pool? And the chugging oom-pah figure recalls Anthony Braxton
's large ensemble works before dissolving into a quietly hazy interval of string glissandos which make a connection with contemporary classical gestures. And that is just the first 60 seconds.
There are other referents here, especially the organic structural methods of Tim Berne
and Steve Lehman
, but Aura
is more than a catalog of influences. Nebbia's compositional voice is fearless, mature and wholly original.
Nebbia has formal training in both classical saxophone and jazz improvisation. She also studied film directing, not surprising considering the ambition and cinematic sweep of Aura
's five compositions. Like a master film director, she balances several dialectics at once, not just composition vs. improvisation but also extremes of instrumental color, density and articulation.
If there is one regret about Aura
it is that Nebbia the composer is parsimonious with solo space for Nebbia the saxophonist. She doesn't unleash herself until the recording is almost three-quarters through, but when she does, it is with a gusher of declamatory ardor, a compelling instrumental voice.
That is not a major criticism; this is a writer's record after all. At one point in "Algunos rastros de la memoria" ("Some traces of memory"), a full-band freak out dissolves into quietude as players put down their instruments and whisper a passage from García Lorca's "Doña Rosita la soltera:" "Why can't a woman breathe with freedom?"
, Camila Nebbia provides a potent answer to that question by breathing the heady air of what is possibile when composition and improvisation are met with fervent imagination.
Las manos; Algunos rastros de la memoria; La desintegración; La quietud del viento; Al costado del río