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Cesar Cardoso: Interchange

Don Phipps By

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On his album Interchange, Portuguese tenor saxophonist Cesar Cardoso offers up a lively set of original compositions to make the head nod and the heart soar. Cardoso hails from Portugal and his music is vaguely reminiscent of Weather Report—but instead of Joe Zawinul's playful keyboard there is Bruno Santos on guitar, propelling the music forward with lines that accentuate the strong melodic phrasing of Cardoso and guest alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon. This front three is backed ably by the rhythm section of bassist Demian Cabaud and drummer André Sousa Machado, who complement the happy tone.

The set begins with "Interchange," a bubbly and rollicking tune that features a highly syncopated "interchange" between Cardoso, Zenon and Santos. Santos then uses his chromatic skills to converse fluidly with the rhythm section. Cardoso's own solo glides seamlessly over the chord changes and he receives a response from Zenon's bird-like tweets.

In contrast, "Tarde" offers a romantic lyricism that suggests a seaside stroll down an Olhos de Auga beach with an endearing companion. The piece is anchored by Cabuad's gentle solo. His thick wooden bass sound contrasts perfectly with the effects generated by Santos. Cardoso enters about two-thirds into the track with a subtle solo that shines on an already sunny afternoon outing.

"May I" provides a speedy sense of adventure. Introducing the theme in unison and then in harmony, Cardoso and Zenon seem almost of one mind in their approach. The catchy, infectious melody moves right along until the break, when Cardoso presents a fluid solo reinforced by the rhythm section. Machado enters with a rapid but smooth drum solo and then Cardoso and Zenon in tandem bring the song to a conclusion.

In "Reflexo," Cardoso puts on his Ben Webster hat. Turn the lights down folks for this late evening ballad. Cardoso's engaging solo is followed by an equally warm and romantic Cabaud bass solo. And all of this is backed by the brush work of Machado and the very delicate effects of Santos's guitar play.

The straight-ahead bop tune "Ascending" soars like a bird above the beach, swooping up and down in the gentle breeze. When Santos and Cabaud's walking bass enter, the song suggests a drive along highway switchbacks gracing ocean cliffs. Cardoso brings the drive to an end with flourishes that echo Weather Report.

On "7 e Tal," listen to how Cardoso and Zenon use their breathing in unison to control the melodic lines and legato phrasing. Think Lee Konitz. By doing this, they suggest a graceful but lively dance. Zenon offers up a hot solo and Santos also shines, with chordal changes and at times brisk flourishes.

As "Red and Blue" begins, Cardoso states the theme. Then Santos stretches out with some nice licks as Cabaud's bass provides a floor. Cabaud takes over, with attacks and a wooden sound that recalls the great late Charlie Haden.

On the short "Tudo a Seu Tempo," Cardoso's tender lines probe the sweet melody above the rhythm section. Then the outing ends with the funky tune and beat of "1 de Abril." Cardoso carries the melody while Zenon dances above the main line. Anchored by a strong bass line, the two saxophonists twirl and dance around each other, exchanging melodic riffs.

With this album, César Cardoso demonstrates that he deserves wider recognition, not only as a tenor saxophonist, but a composer as well. If you like sun, surf, romance and playfulness, this set of tunes will certainly make your day. Enjoy!

Track Listing: Interchange; Tarde; May I; Reflexo; Ascending; 7 e Tal; Red and Blue; Tudo a Seu Tempo; 1 de Abril.

Personnel: Cesar Cardoso: tenor saxophone; Bruno Santos: guitar; Demian Cabaud: bass; Andre Sousa Machado: drums. Special guest: Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone.

Title: Interchange | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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