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Album Review

Machado Mijiga: Gradient

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Machado Mijiga: Gradient
Machado Mijiga is a Portland born and raised multi- instrumentalist, producer, audio engineer and educator, still based in his city of origin. His 2022 release, Gradient, turns his focus to his creative strengths as a drummer and composer, taking in tunes written over the course of the past decade. Mijiga has mild synesthesia, hearing sounds as colors, shapes or more specifically, colors seen through the spectrum, or color groups. This is similar to the recently passed pianist, Jessica Williams, who as well spent considerable time in Portland.

While much of the music on Gradient is piano trio, five of the eleven tracks feature either trumpet, vibraphone, Rhodes or guitar in brief periods. That being said, Mijiga enlisted a long list of contributors, including five pianists and three bassists. Brilliant young pianists Dylan Hayes and Dario LaPoma are joined by veterans Darrell Grant and George Colligan. Double bassists Andrew Jones and Garrett Baxter appear on all eleven tracks, with electric bassist Sam Arnold joining on one.

Having this large a roster can be a gamble or distraction, yet remarkably, the entirety of the album sounds like one solid trio with added voices, a nod to Mijiga's abilities as a composer and bandleader. The compositions themselves seem to act as vehicles to push the musicians to their extreme outer limits. They are dense, at times complex, intelligent and probing. They do not necessarily possess or suggest strong melodies. A medium of space is provided for spontaneous composition from the community of musicians employed.

Mijiga is joined by two Portland standouts in bassist Andrew Jones, and pianist Dario LaPoma on the fluid "Rev." La Poma's beautiful harmony shrouds the atmospheric, melodic playing of guitarist Jack Radsliff, underpinned elegantly by bassist Jones. As is the constant on all eleven tracks, Mijiga's drum style suggests melody, steeped in the intricacy of modern gospel drumming. The wisdom of his focus on the drum kit for this recording pays dividends time after time, track after track.

On the tail end, "Archipelago" pianist Hayes brings in the melody, and solos in composer's mind, a burst of imaginative phrases that speaks to the idea of strong melody in a vocal sense. Vibraphonist Matt Sazima's intertwining lines release into a free- wheeling solo that seems to take the vehicle and give it a good, solid push. All the while, the music falls back to Mijiga's intricate polyrhythms.

Gradient is in many ways representative of the current movement on the west coast, or more specifically, in the Pacific Northwest. Far reaching, imaginative composition that rarely swings, if ever, and young musicians who have an awareness that is obtained beyond the reach of modern jazz education. That understanding leads to mentorship and respect earned on the bandstand with masters of the craft. There is an organic sense of that generational understanding throughout this recording. It makes for a great listen and the good feeling of what is to come further down the road. The light is bright.

Track Listing

21cc; Sepia; Rev; Gradient; Legacy; Sarcophagus; Solace; Adversary; Rembrandt; Back Home; Archipelago.

Personnel

Machado Mijiga: drums; Dario LaPoma: piano; Dylan Hayes: keyboards; Darrell Grant: piano; George Colligan: piano; Todd Marston : keyboards; Rob Araujo: piano; Andrew Jones: bass, acoustic; Garrett Baxter: bass; Sam Arnold: bass, electric; Jack Radsliff: guitar; Justin Copeland: trumpet; Noah Simpson: trumpet; Matt Sazima: vibraphone.

Additional Instrumentation

Machado Mijiga: compositions, drums (all tracks). Personnel, by track: Dario LaPoma, piano (1,3,5,6,9); Andrew Jones: bass (1,3,5,6,8,9); Dylan Hayes: piano (2,7,11); Garrett Baxter: bass (2,4,7,8,10,11}. Guests: Justin Copeland: trumpet (1); Jack Radsliff: guitar (3); Darrell Grant: piano (4); Todd Marston: Rhodes (4); George Colligan: piano (8); Noah Simpson: trumpet (8); Rob Araujo: piano (10); Sam Arnold: bass guitar (10); Matt Sazima, vibraphone (11).

Album information

Title: Gradient | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self-Released

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