European Jazz Conference Lisbon 2018: Portuguese showcases

Henning Bolte By

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In this lovely winsome setting The Fringe Program brought musical aces as the new trio of internationally renowned Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, the amazing, inimitable eleven-piece LUME ensemble lead by pianist Marco Barroso, the floating trio of vibraphonist Eduardo Cardinho, and the rich tonally loaded and wheeling Centauri unit of internationally up-and-coming guitarist André Fernandez. The groups covered a broader spectrum from a thorough free improvising unit as the Rodrigo Amado trio to the solid contemporary jazz units Fernandez and Cardinho and LUME hovering above and cruising in between.

André Fernandes

André Fernandes is a fairly accomplished musician. He is member of the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos and has a release with his own group on the highly regarded British Edition label on his sleeve. He is quite actively developing his own projects. The Centauri unit comprises ubiquitous saxophonist João Mortágua and OJM fellow, saxophonist José Pedro Coelho plus the young rhythm section of bassist Francisco Brito and drummer João Pereira. The unit easily, elegantly and energetically combined rocking parts (riffs from The Kinks' "You really got me") with colorful sparkling and melodically soaring parts.

Eduardo Cardinho

Bassist Francisco Brito also contributed to the trio of vibraphonist Eduardo Cardinho together with drummer Diogo Alexandre. He lives and studies in Amsterdam. The album Black Hole with his quintet, released 2016, was well received. The trio presented a fresh, solidly crafted set of beautifully flowing music. Cardinho is a solid musician sticking to his last without sounding dated.


Portugal not only has the best surfing waves and sites in Europe. It also has LUME, the Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble lead by composer and pianist Marco Barroso. The 15-piece-troupe throws in the gushing raw energy of roaring Atlantic waves. In terms of temperament LUME is the Fire! Orchestra of the South and the southern brother of The Flat Earth Society from Belgium. LUME has been way north a few times but for urgent climatic reasons it has to happen much more often. It will be the best way to re-balance the circulation and exchange of high and low pressure between the way-up North and way-down South of Europe. LUME played a frantic set in a small provisionally hall of Ler Devagaro. The not-optimal sound made it even better and more fun. At the end of the concert all dust had been whirled up and echo-waves continued to sift through the night -a refreshing reset for the rest of the late/early hours.

Rodrigo Amado

Saxophonist Rodrigo Amado is a key voice of great continuity on the Portuguese scene of improvised music. In addition to his Portuguese groups, such as the Motion trio with the remarkable cellist Miguel Mira and (still) young drummer Gabriel Ferrandini, in the long run he built up and maintained strong international collaborations with trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist/trumpeter Joe McPhee, trombonist Jeb Bishop, the bassists Kent Kessler and John Hébert and the drummers Chris Corsano, Gerald Cleaver and Paal-Nilsen Love (see my review here). Recently he teamed up with drummer Gard Nilssen, trumpeter Thomas Johansson and bassist Jon Rune Strøm, younger generation musicians from Norway. His latest album is A History of Nothing with Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler and Chris Corsano. Amado is also part of the 9-piece ensemble Lisbon Freedom Unit. It just released the album Praise of our Folley. Rodrigo Amado is one of the few European musicians not only appearing in American polls but also ranking high. He must have something that speaks to Americans.

For the Fringe at Ler Devagaro he made his appearance with a new Portuguese trio collaboration with long time companions bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Joao Lencastre, both pioneering musicians on the scene. Faustino is the bassist of the well-known Red Trio and Lencastre should be known from his New York collaborations with, among others, Thomas Morgan, Jacob Sacks and David Binney. Faustino and Lencastre play together with pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro (also Red Trio) in the Nau Quartet of saxophonist José Lencastre. The just quartet just released its album Eudaimonia). The quartet just released its album Eudaimonia).

. Amado is a strong as well as supple tenor player who laid down muscular lines. He is a musician that really makes listeners partake quite directly of the growth, the compacting and differentiating of form(s) firmly unfolding in the nascent force field. Faustino and Lencastre in full commitment whipped up firm textures as furrows and fertile soil for Amado's excursion. He succeeded in a beautiful way to bundle and channel the musical energy and shape tonal lines in full clarity. The music was one hundred percent real time creation with all its natural vividness and confident projection. Amado achieved this while remaining true to the music(ians) and true to the listeners.

One-way traffic?

It turns out that in the Portuguese scene(s) a close network of musicians and groups with a greater number of stable international collaborations exists, especially with musicians from the US and from France but also—to a lesser extent—from Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia. These musicians and groups are also involved in international touring. I know (and also saw myself) Portuguese groups playing festivals/venues outside Portugal, especially in Ljubljana, Belgrade, Wroclaw, Moscow, Copenhagen, Voss and Moers. The stronger presence in the Eastern part of Europe is mainly based on firm bilateral cooperation (like co-programming) on different levels. With other countries it seems there is incongruence in the exchange of musicians/groups. Musicians/groups from the northern and central part of Europe are much more frequently invited to Portugal (and other southern countries too) than the other way round. The center and the north seemingly underuse the southern potentials.

For instance, the Porto festival Jazz No Parque (of the Serralves Museum) this year invited Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado to put together a Norwegian configuration to play with him at the festival. If this will have counterparts on the Norwegian side or other Northern countries, a better balance could be achieved. More two-way traffic between South and North beyond the existing circumstances is something to strive for. It goes beyond the useful format to present musicians/groups from country X (as a first good step) at venues or festivals. It needs to be taken a step further in the sense that good musicians/groups from all over Europe should be programmed all over Europe on the basis of their musical excellence. The perspective has to be shifted from a prevailing "export- perspective" to a more collaborative exchange perspective. On that basis competition and cross-fertilization could and would really bloom. The Desvio-showcase event in Parede near Lisbon two years ago was a first step in that direction ((see my review here). Hopefully the Lisbon EJC-showcases will be a strong follow-up in that perspective.

Algumas conclusões

Every European country has its own peculiar history and way of shaping jazz depending on a plethora of factors. Every European country also has and had its specific colorful key figures. A brand-new book on this topic for all European countries has just been finished and published as a result of an EJN-project lead by Francesco Martinelli: The History of European Jazz. The Music, Musicians and Audience in Context. Equinox Publ.. Every country has its very own sources feeding jazz by its musical traditions that themselves are a long time merging of various influences. Jazz is the 20th century vehicle to escape and deepen a diversity of roots. It is a language or an approach to cope with experiences of uprooting, oppression, exploitation and discrimination. It is the music of urbanization and urban migration.

In my perception there is a special relationship of soberness and exuberance in much jazz from Portugal and a special tension between the conventional and the unconventional. Through many music schools and exemplary educational practices such as that implemented by Orquestra Jazz de Matesinhos the basics of playing jazz are strongly developed. Jazz in Portugal also has strong hidden, cherished and nurtured treasures such as (the music of) the extraordinary pianist Bernardo Sassetti (1970-2012). Sassetti was not even discovered by the Munich label ECM, a label with aesthetics compatible to Sassetti's music. Although Sassetti worked in the UK for a while, labels outside Portugal never noticed him or other great Portuguese musicians. Mariá João, an artist with a strong signature, found her way to non-Portuguese labels by starting to work in Germany in her early career. She recorded in duo with pianist Aki Takase for the Enja label. Another treasure is the strong free-jazz scene that attracts a mainly young audience, not only in Lisbon but also in Coimbra. Zei Miguel is a driving force there and also responsible for keeping the excellent magazine Jazz.pt going together with Rui Eduardo Paes, the editor-in chief from Lisbon. The mentioned characteristics go together with an enduring grass roots spirit that spawned the Lisbon label Clean Feed. Clean Feed fulfilled a pioneering role and still fulfills a crucial connecting and developing function in the international jazz field, especially in the perspective of European collaboration thanks to the enormous creativity and endurance of Pedro Costa. These characteristics seem contradictory at first but primarily "tell" that there is a lot of potential, which actively has to be discovered and wants to be handled with care. The Belém Meeting, brought together and organized with great endurance and diligence by Carlos Martins, Constanze Jürgens and Alaide Costa of Associacão Sons da Lusofonia, offered and delivered a lot to dig and dive into. Novara will be the host of the 6th European Jazz Conference scheduled September 12-15, 2019.

Photo Pedro Melo Alves's Omniae Ensemble -©Henning Bolte


Live Reviews Henning Bolte Portugal Lisbon Maria Joao João Paulo Esteves João Barradas João Mortágua Susana Santos Silva Pedro Melo Alves Beatriz Nunes Marco Barroso Eduardo Cardinho André Fernandez Mario Costa Benoit Delbecq Bruno Chevillon Joana Machado Pedro Segundo Ross Stanley Andre Carvalho Bernardo Sassetti Carlos Barretto Alexandre Frazão Mário Laginha Carlos 'Zingaro' Bugge Wesseltoft Espen Eriksen andy sheppard Carlos Martins Paal Nilssen-Love Emile Parisien Hugo Carvalhais Joachim Kühn Michel Portal Manu Codja} -{{Vincent Peirani Simon Tailleu Michael Mantler Pedro Guedes Carlos Azevedo Maria Schneider carla bley Lee Konitz John Hollenbeck Mark Turner Carlos Bica Steve Swallow Gary Valente Dieter Glawischnig Chris Cheek Ohad Talmor Joshua Redman Cristina Branco Ricardo Ribeiro Greg Osby Gil Goldstein Sergio Carolino Aki Takase Egberto Gismonti Rabih Abou-Khalil Luís Barrigas Mário Franco Jorge Moniz Torbjörn Zetterberg João Pedro Brandão Hugo Raro Marcos Cavaleiro Demian Cabaud José Soares Hugo Ciríaco Rui Teixeira Alex Rodriguez-Lázaro Pedro Vasconcelos Julius Hemphill Oliver Lake Hamiet Bluiett David Murray Steven Bernstein Ray Draper Howard Johnson Michel Massot Berlinde Demen Michel Godard Oren Marshall Martin Taxt Heida Mobeck Daysuke Takaoka Sara Tavares Francisco Brito João Pereira Diogo Alexandre Miguel Mira Gabriel Ferrandini Peter Evans Joe McPhee Jeb Bishop Kent Kessler John Hebert Chris Corsano Gerald Cleaver Gard Nilssen Thomas Johansson Jon Rune Strøm Hernani Faustino Joao Lencastre Thomas Morgan Jacob Sacks David Binney


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