The two-microphone approach MA Records utilizes in this recording by Portuguese pianist Joao Paulo and American Peter Epstein is reminiscent of the large, lush “ECM sound.” Recorded in the Saint George British Anglican Church in Lisbon, Portugal, this richly acoustical, rather large sound environment is a treat for audiophiles. Where the “ECM sound” sometimes comes under the criticism for a cold sterile timbre, MA’s disc resonates an organic radiance.
Paulo is perhaps the Portuguese Keith Jarrett, expressing himself in both classical and creative improvised music. His ‘native jazz’ is a blend of regional folk, that without doubt make up the gumbo of New Orleans’ new music 100 years ago, and of course has since been influence by the American popular music known as jazz. Saxophonist Epstein is a musical chameleon with a hunger for all types of music. He performs with guitarist Brad Shepik and The Commuters playing a jazz inflected Eastern European to Middle Eastern/African music, plays with drummer Jerry Granelli’s Badlands exercising the NY Downtown sound of eclecticism, and is part of a trio with Michael Cain and Ralph Alessi. His two quartet recordings for MA, Staring At The Sun (1997) and The Invisible (1999) with Jamie Saft, Chris Dahlgren, and Jim Black are treasures of resourceful writing and group interplay. Epstein has also recorded the beautiful solo session Solus (1999).
The duo of Paulo and Epstein present a very introspective session of music, built upon folk/classical and jazz/not jazz. This music, unlike their prior efforts with a bassist keeping time, doesn’t have a swing component, but substitutes improvisational freedom. All the compositions are by Paulo, except Epstein’s “Good Fever” from his quartet recording The Invisible. Here the skeleton of the quartet’s driving number is reduced to its essence of sound. Hearing it in this duet context (after being imprinted by the quartet’s version) reminds one that jazz emanates from one’s soul and not from a drum set. Like a score by Aaron Copeland, Paulo’s compositions lift the folk music of his native country into a larger realm of modern classical music. While these songs have a chamber feel to them, they easily could be converted to a straight-ahead jazz context, into a traditional folk repertory, or as orchestral pieces.