What happens when modern composition meets jazz in a science fiction universe? The answer is Grand Valis by Portuguese bassist and composer Hugo Carvalhais.
Carvalhais tackles the great universal questions of meaning in a musical language. Titles like "Exegesis," "Logos" and "Decoding Maya" point towards the philosophical nature of the music. Carvalhais plays bass and electronics, but here he is first of all a composer and musical thinker playing with the concept of sound. What is sound? How does it form compositional shapes and create ambience and meaning? These are some of the questions that Carvalhais asks with the help of Jeremiah Cymerman's electronic manipulations, Dominique Pifarély on violin and Gabriel Pinto on organ and keyboards.
The result of Carvalhais' experiments is music that is both strange and poetic, classical, jazzy and futuristic. For instance, "Anamnesis" opens with tight unison lines of violin, bass and organ before Pinto's organ breaks free and Pifarély's violin soars in a landscape subtly manipulated by electronics. Carvalhais plays detached walking bass patterns and Pinto's organ is closer to Olivier Messiaen and Charles Tournemire's L'orgue Mystique than Jimmy Smith's groovy Chicken Shack.
The achievement of Grand Valis is that it creates its own universe, a musical landscape that plays with different genre codes without surrendering to any of them. It is experimental and spacy music, but also accessible and structured and the great virtue of Carvalhais' music is that it does not shun melody or harmony. Instead, he puts together a complex musical puzzle that is not satisfied to repeat any given musical tradition, but takes the listener on a journey into outer space.
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