"Além" starts unceremoniously, almost mid-tune, tenor sax and guitar evoking a sultry Stan Getz mood. The labyrinthine structure of the title track adds to its appeal and benefits from strong playing with a feisty guitar solo. César Cardoso's soprano on "Ónica" evinces a delicate interplay between the sax and the guitar. It might be a bit too much to suggest that the essential pairing of this saxophonist and guitarist is as effective as that heard on John McLaughlin's classic album Extrapolation (with saxophonist John Surman), but undoubtedly, the two musicians on this recording hugely complement each other. There's a good bass solo too from Demian Cabaud.
"After" exemplifies the characteristic sound of this quartet which is anchored by the guitar's predominantly muted tone. The dulcet interaction between guitar and sax here also has a distinct resonance of that other earlier pairing of guitar and woodwind, Jim Hall and Jimmy Giuffre. "Lennie & Mark" is a bright piece propelled by subtly robust drumming and on the ballad "O Brilho do Sol," guitarist Bruno Santos demonstrates the effectiveness of sporadically graduated volume control as a method of tonal variation.
"Leibrus" is a tranquil number with the emphasis on subtle guitar comping overlaid by sinuous soprano sax, with a backbone of some very solid drumming. "Quando A Chuva Cai" is a stately ballad, again with a quiet disposition, but affords an opportunity to showcase another resonating bass solo.
"Restless V" is a welcome breezy boppy number where Bruno Santos takes an atypically fuzz-distorted solo, a surprising sea change from his approach on the preceding tunes, perfectly counterbalancing César Cardoso's mellifluous tenor saxophone.
If anything, Bottom Shelf is a master class in restrained understatement and it should be noted that André Sousa Machado's drumming never seeks to dominate the proceedings, yet keeps perfect subtle time in the background. The album does require several plays in order to appreciate at just what level these musicians are playing, but gradually the performances begin to crystallise into an extremely appealing set.
Além; Bottom Shelf; Ónica; After; Lennie & Mark; O Brilho do Sol; Leibrus; Quando A Chuva Cai; Restless V.
César Cardoso: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bruno Santos: guitar; Demian Cabaud: double bass; André Sousa Machado: drums.