Guitarist and Berklee College of Music alumnus Nuno Costa
has produced his third album, which was recorded in January 2014, in Lisbon, Portugal, where he and his band are based. It makes for some intriguing listening too.
Electronic guitar whine cedes to ethereal harmonics, constituting the opening bars of "Hum...?," and from here on in the group sets out its stall of florid, lyrical melodies, all composed by Costa. Whilst the guitarist is somewhat overshadowed by piano, sax and trumpet, he does provide an effectively subtle introduction and ending to the piece, once more with almost imperceptible harmonics at the close.
"Voando Sobre Um Ninho De Vespas" is the first opportunity to hear Costa's light and airy soloing, redolent of the softer, more cerebral approach taken by the likes of John Abercrombie. Here too Óscar Graça on piano and João Moeira on trumpet grace this excellently arranged number with their articulate solos.
"Sr. Puto" is a languid, pastoral track, with Costa here providing echo-laden sustained notes, now more resembling Bill Frisell, in which the group plays an empathetic collective improvisation prior to the closing written ensemble passages.
Plangent guitar chords introduce "A Vespa ContraAtaca (Intro)" this short introductory piece leading into the feistier "A Vespa ContraAtaca" where a brisk 4/4 rhythm provided by Andre Sousa Machado's keen drumming and a trumpet and sax-led unison motif provide the opening to this lively number, succeeded by Moeira's lustrous trumpet solo and an elegant flurry of notes emanating from Costa's guitar, his style both relaxed and searching.
"Desespero Do Embalo" is more restrained with a majestic central repeated ensemble passage providing a backdrop for inventive alto sax and guitar solos before returning to the closing theme.
The final tune, "Vespa O Ataque Final" takes a darker form than the preceding numbers with the piano's menacing minor chords to the fore, hardly surprising given the English translation of the title ("Wasp: The Final Attack").
As a quirky sidebar to the music, its imaginative artwork is reminiscent of the cover of prog band Family's debut album Music in a Doll's House (Reprise, 1968), something of an attractive bonus for those old enough to remember it. As for the music, Costa employs a generally self-effacing modus operandi tending to push the other soloists forward, much as Miles Davis was latterly wont to do. But whilst the guitarist takes something of a democratic stance as far as soloing goes, his music is engaging, expertly arranged and performed, compositionally hypnotic and definitely deserving of more exposure.
Hum...?; Voando Sobre Um Ninho De Vespas (One Flew Over The Wasp’s Nest); Sr. Puto (Mr Kido); A Vespa Contra – Ataca (Intro); A Vespa Contra – Ataca (The Wasp Strikes Back); Desespero Do Embalo (A Lullaby In Despair); Vespa: O Ataque Final (Wasp: The Final Attack).
Nuno Costa: guitar; João Moeira: trumpet; João Guimarães: alto saxophone; Óscar M Graça: piano; Bernardo Moreira: double bass; Andre Sousa Machado: drums