Born in Lisbon in 1976, guitarist André Fernandes is becoming a significant international player in jazz. He studied at the Lisbon Hot Club School and later at Berklee College of Music for two years in the late nineteen nineties. He has contributed to the projects of many internationally renowned jazz musicians including Julian Arguelles, Avishai Cohen, Lee Konitz, Joshua Redman, Tomasz Stanko and Maria Schneider. Already well-established in his native Portugal, in 2002 he co-founded the punningly titled record label Tone of a Pitch, for which he has recorded six albums -his album Cubo was voted best jazz album of 2007 by the Portugese critics' poll -but Dream Keeper is Fenandes' first album for a major international jazz label.
"Chifre" starts sedately but rapidly ascends into a rip-roaring ensemble piece with Perico Sambeat's soprano saxophone and Fernandes' coruscating guitar vying for attention. There's also an effective contrast between the deep notes of guest Paulo Gaspar's bass clarinet and the soaring soprano sax. The percussion-rich "Rabbit Hole" has an airy melody and Sambeat solos lithely on flute as does Alexi Tuomarila on piano. André Fernandes contributes a guitar solo with a characteristic semi-distorted tone.
The ensemble opening to "Snakes And Lizards" develops a secondary riff adding to the complexity, following which Sambeat gives a fiery alto solo before the tempo noticeably slows with Fernandes' guitar making a notably restrained yet effective appearance in the final minutes of the piece.
By contrast, the robust "Anti hero" sees Fernandes on pedal effects-laden guitar making the instrument sound at times like a wah wah infused electric violin, whereas the deceptively quiet start to "Jack" breaks down shortly into a King Crimson style melee with fierce overdriven guitar all centred over two power chords, an effective device also employed on "Businessman" from Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill. "Abarat," the longest track at over ten minutes, begins with almost hesitant-sounding guitar, soon transitioning, by way of a pastoral melody played on flute, into a searching and quietly confident solo followed by soloing in turn from Demian Cabaud on bass, Alexi Tuomarila on piano and Perico Sambeat on alto.
Perico Sambeat's "Dream Keeper," the only track not written by Fernandes, begins with high intensity guitar and continues with solo sparring from alto saxophone and guitar. Here Fernandes' playing is both fast and intense, the number slowing to a crawl in its coda.
Undoubtedly, the colourful arrangements, imaginative instrumentation and consummate execution of these seven compositions all contribute to the strength of this excellent and well-balanced album.
Chifre; Rabbit Hole; Snakes And Lizards; Anti Hero; Jack; Abarat; Dream Keeper
André Fernandes: guitar; Perico Sambeat: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Alexi Tuomarila: piano; Demian Cabaud: bass; Iago Fernandez: drums. Plus on tracks 1,2,3,4 & 6: Paulo Gaspar: bass clarinet; on tracks 2 and 6: Marcelo Araújo: percussion; Desidéro Lázaro: tenor saxophone and Gonçalo Marques: trumpet, flugelhorn.
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