The aptly titled Beyond the Margins
is just the latest entry in tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado
's burgeoning catalog, and it is certainly further proof that Amado is among the most exciting and accomplished practitioners of free music in the jazz world. Each new release seems to allow him to hone his craft with ever-greater precision, and with an even wider range of emotional resonances. And with a line-up of free jazz veterans that includes pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach
, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
, and drummer Gerry Hemingway
, this is an album destined to raise Amado's visibility and recognition even higher.
Many of Amado's releases have been in a trio format, such as his Attic trio with Gonçalo Almeida and Onno Govaert
; their Love Ghosts
(NoBusiness) was a highlight of 2022. There is no question that the saxophone-bass-drums context gives a free player like Amado maximal room in which to maneuvernotwithstanding, of course, his superb solo outing, Refraction Solo: Live at the Church of the Holy Ghost
(Trost, 2022). So adding Schlippenbach to the mix might at first seem a confining choice, but that is before hearing how the pianist and saxophonist interact; indeed, Schlippenbach's presence seems in no way to limit Amado's freedom, and in fact it allows other facets of his playing to emerge powerfully, his empathetic lyricism in particular. The two first recorded together with Amado's Motion Trio on 2021's The Field
(NoBusiness), and the success of that first venture no doubt shaped Amado's decision to set up another encounter.
The album's centerpiece is the tour-de-force title track, a forty-minute extravaganza that veers from manic intensity to tender restraint to playful mirth, with Amado and partners equally adept in each vein. Schlippenbach is a muscular player when he needs to be, and this allows him to match Amado's fire when the quartet hits its peak, as it frequently does; but what is just as effective is Schlippenbach's ability to find the softer, darker hues of Amado's vision. Perhaps it is the pianist's widely acknowledged debt to Thelonious Monk
that serves his purpose here; with subtle rhythmic displacements and a deep reservoir of harmonic choices, he is able to find points of contact with Amado that consistently take the music to interesting places. Håker Flaten and Hemingway are similarly multi-faceted. Hemingway can pound the heck out of his kit, but his use of texture and color are even more noteworthy, pivotal in those moments in which the music enters its more contemplative strains. Håker Flaten's versatility is just as important, whether in frenzied scamperings, sketching a walking bass line or using some well-chosen creative techniques to augment the sound; his eerie arco segment during a more placid moment midway through the track is just one example. In its boundless creativity and undeniable spirit of adventure, the quartet extracts every ounce of music possible during the piece's many excursions and investigations.
The much briefer second and third tracks, "Personal Mountains" and "(Visiting) Ghosts" cannot really match the sheer scope and thematic range of the title piece, but they are nonetheless effective in offering a more economical glimpse of the group in action. Håker Flaten's work is especially impressive on the former, whether he is prodding the piece forward with flurries of notes or helping to usher the music into a more introspective mode with a particularly potent solo reverie. And the closing track gives Amado a chance to honor one of his forebears, with Albert Ayler
's presence invoked but not slavishly imitated. From Amado's deeply soulful opening to the piece's hair-raising flights and its reverential finish, it is a reminder of just how much life remains in the free jazz tradition, especially when it is stewarded so capably by such fine musicians.
Beyond The Margins; Personal Mountains, (Visiting) Ghosts.
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