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João Pedro Viegas/Guy-Frank Pellerin/Silvia Corda/Adriano Orrù: For Massas

Daniel Barbiero By

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Those of us who work at the edges of the musical establishment—free improvisers, experimental musicians, unclassifiable sound artists of all types—inhabit a small community. Part of that community is our audience—an important part, no matter how small it might. I've heard more than one artist say that he or she would be happy to play for an audience of just one serious, engaged listener, if it ever came down to that. (And sometimes it has—I've seen it.)

As it happens, each experimental or outside music scene seems to have a handful of committed listeners who can be counted on to come out to the shows no matter who's playing, regardless of whether it's on a weeknight or in some out-of- the way performance space that probably won't be there the next week. And we're grateful to them, even if we don't often come out and say so.

A new release by the cosmopolitan European quartet of bass clarinetist João Pedro Viegas, soprano and tenor saxophonist Guy-Frank Pellerin, pianist Silvia Corda and double bassist Adriano Orrù does come out and say so. For Massas, a recording of their concert of 14 May 2015 is dedicated to Massas—his real name Paulo Albano—whom Viegas describes as "the most loyal listener of jazz and free music on the Lisbon scene." Massas was in the audience when this set was recorded in Lisbon's Livraria ler Devagar—that's his voice on the third track, asking for an encore—a set that may have been the last he saw. For, sadly, within two days of the performance, he was dead. The exciting music Viegas, Pellerin, Corda and Orrù played that day is a fitting tribute to him.

All four musicians are adept at a texturally-aware, timbrally variegated form of free improvisation, which is what they have to offer in these two longer pieces and one short encore. Their basic structural gambit consists in a subtractive- additive process. By continually breaking down into smaller subunits—trios, duos and solos—and then reassembling, they keep instrumental color contrasts in a constant state of mobility. In short, this is a quartet that allows the music to breathe and evolve organically. Although unencumbered by preexisting forms, the music is nevertheless sharply focused and shaped by spontaneously coordinated changes of density and dynamics and consequently, of mood. Viegas' playing tends toward an expressionistic use of leaps up and down the bass clarinet's full register; on both saxophones, Pellerin makes good use of extended techniques and contrastive dynamics. In lieu of drums or similar percussion, Orrù and Corda offer staccato interventions—as structurally necessary as they are discreet—to punctuate the reeds' longer lines.

If this was indeed the last performance of improvised music Massas witnessed, it's at least of some consolation that what he heard was of such fine quality.

Track Listing: la prima frase; notre réponse; massas diz: “mais música!”; encore

Personnel: João Pedro Viegas: bass clarinet; Guy-Frank Pellerin: soprano and tenor saxophones; Silvia Corda: piano; Adriano Orrù: double bass

Title: For Massas | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Pan Y Rosas Discos

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