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Carlos Bica: Getting Intimate With The Bull Fiddle

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Portuguese bassist Carlos Bica is perhaps best known for his lyrical and singing tone, and his delicate and gentle touch, and these qualities are well to the fore on two recent discs—one with his trio, the other solo. The albums also confirm Bica to be a composer of note. He has a special gift for haunting melodies, and his work convincingly integrates such diverse styles as Portuguese fado, other folk musics, pop, rock and jazz.

Carlos Bica & Azul
Believer
Enja Records
2006

Believer is the fourth release from Bica's international trio, Azul, which also features Berlin-based guitarist Frank Möbus and New York-based drummer Jim Black. As before, the focus is on tight, groove-based melodies, with plenty of space for improvisation. Believer also includes a guest musician: turntablist DJ Illvibe (aka Vincent von Schlippenbach, son of the pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach). His futuristic and hyper-urban textures sit comfortably and organically within the trio's analogue lines.

Illvibe—who's featured on five tracks—brings a humorous dimension to the music, especially on the shortish "P Beat" and "Catch The Cat", where he adds broken beats to mix, and his colleagues are quick to respond to his rhythmic feints with dense grooves of their own. Elswhere the trio retains the same ethereal guitar trio aesthetic of previous releases, offering fresh metric and harmonic changes (notably on "Marinha Grunge") and splashes of irony ("John Wayne.")

Throughout the album Bica displays an acute sense of timing and talent for rhythmic deconstruction. Black opts for more direct, straight line playing, and Möbus proves himself again to be an original and inventive player who offers a varied palette of colors and shades. He shines especially brightly on the lengthy, and very catchy, title tune. Bica's deliciously light and delicate solo showcase, "Portuguese Seaman," is another outstanding tune, as is the closer, the dramatic and mysterious "Through The Mirror." A thoughtful and beautiful release.

Carlos Bica
Single
Bor Land
2005

Double bass connoisseurs accustomed to upfront and assertive solo albums from players like Barry Guy, Mark Dresser and Joëlle Léandre may be surprised by the gentle, even fragile, sounds Bica creates on Single.

Bica's gorgeous, rounded tone, a feature of his both pizzicato and arco playing, is featured on 17 short tracks, a collection of intimate and expressive soundscapes. Most of the tunes grow out of the fado tradition—Portugal's own blues music—and remind the listener of the occasions when Bica has recorded with the celebrated fado singers, Carlos do Carmo and José Mário Branco.

"White Wall", which also appears on Believer, reveals the architecture behind Bica's melodies, and "Danca Para Um Folclore Imaginário" is an elaboration of a traditional Portugese dance form. The walking bass of "California Is Waiting For Tom" gives a glimpse of Bica's wry side. Lyrical and poetic music, and warmly recommended.

Visit Carlos Bica, Frank Möbus and Jim Black on the web.


Tracks and Personnel

Believer

Tracks: Iceland; Alguem Olhará Por TI; White Wall; P Beat; Smile; Catch The Cat; Luscious; Marinha Grunge; Portuguese Seaman; John Wayne; Believer; Vergiss Nicht; Through The Mirror.

Personnel: Carlos Bica: double bass; Frank Möbus: electric guitar; Jim Black: drums, percussion; DJ Illvibe: turntables.

Single

Tracks: A Luz Da Rosa; Hank; Softly As... ; Agora; Al Legno; Martelato; Introducão/Chão e Bolero; Vero; Ay! Linda Amiga; White Wall; Danca Para Um Folclore Imaginário; Mr. Brody; Pelas Sombras Da Noite Adentro; Cancão Para O Minho; A Porta; California Is Waiting For Tom; E O Tempo Deixou De Existir.

Personnel: Carlos Bica: double bass.


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