What joy to discover a new jazz musician with talent, one "on loan from God," as they say. Hugo Alves, a Portuguese trumpet/flugelhorn player, might have escaped your attention, but be forewarned, he will be a name you hear for many years to come. Like American brass players Ron Miles, Ralph Alessi and Ron Horton, not commonly discussed in the Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove dialogue, Alves is creating a scene around his horn and playing. And like the above mentioned players, he has a knack for incorporating tradition into a music which is thoroughly modern.
Born in 1973, Alves began playing music at age seven and was later mentored by the legendary bassist Ze Eduardo. Three of his discs are reviewed below and he has also begun an 18-musician ensemble, the Lagos Jazz Orchestra, in his home town.
The first song on his first record writes Alves' statement of worthiness. He begins Estranha Natureza or "Strange Nature" with a trumpet and drum duet! Yes, gutsy (and non mainstream) as it may seem, Alves meets Jorge Moniz on the trapeze, knocking out the high wire act of playing toe-to-toe with a drummer. The players alternate between the obvious military promenade and tender chamber jazz possibilities.
Alves also has your attention as his vision is revealed on the remaining tracks. The quartet lays down some classic bebop on "La P'ra Cima!" and "Castanhitos," played with an urgency and a breakneck technical facility by Alves that suggests a master's command (even perhaps Clifford Brown-like) over his instrument. His writing here and elsewhere on this debut evidences his ability to digest a style and write something interesting from the culture of jazz. When they take on ballad, as with "Dois Velhos" or "Longo Por Do Sol," the band patiently allows the composition to unfold. Alves deftly swaps his trumpet for flugelhorn on the first ballad for added feeling.
Hugo Alves Trio
Two years later, Alves released a trio record with his old friend Ze Eduardo on bass and the adroit drummer Jorge Moniz. This record, made without a pianist or guitar, is a bit more free, but also more playful. Alves opens the music up beyond bebop and ballads to the world of jazz that trades the limiting term "jazz" for "music." They execute the precise circus-like track "Apanho Taksi" or "grab the taxi," a slapstick theatre piece with perfect timing for the pratfalls to work. Alves slurs and burps notes, not unlike Dave Douglas. And like Douglas he never blows an off-key note, always talking with perfect grammar.
Alves reprises "Drumpet II" as a drum duet. Certainly, this must be a favorite in concert, but the rawness of a back-and-forth between these two strong voices is a pleasure. Alves can spit out notes as fast as any player working todayor swing, as he does on "Norte Perto" against the timekeeping of Eduardo, not unlike Lee Morgan. He works a ballad like "Tema So Para Ti" with such gentleness you hardly believe this is the same player. But indeed it is, and his clarity of notes shines throughout.
Hugo Alves Quartet
The 2007 formation for Hugo Alves was a quartet with the inclusion of Pablo Romero on electric piano. As US listeners have accepted the return of this instrument, thanks in part to Dave Douglas' bands, its befitting Alves' jazz conception. He writes music here that is both looking backward to the hip swinging music of the 1970s, and also that is looking squarely into the future of small jazz ensembles.
The track "66 Exchange" sounds like a soundtrack to a television show made during the heyday of studios employing real jazz artists as composers. Its infectious melody reminds you to tune in each week. The title track, with Alves on fluglehorn recalls the Children Of Sanchez (IMS, 1978) record Chuck Mangione made in the late-1970s, with its delicious, innocent sound. Alves maintains that pure tone throughout. Whether he's playing a ballad or working a bit more free, he hits all the right notes. This new voice continues to develop into quite an impressive discography of composing and playing.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Drumpet; Um Outro Cé U de Prata; Lá P'ra Cima!; Dois Velhos; Estranha Natureze; 22, Lugar 32; Longo Por Do Sol; Sete Selvas; No Castelo da Catarina; Castanhitos.
Personnel: Hugo Alves: trumpet, flugelhorn, composition; Bruno Santos: guitar; Jorge Moniz: drums; Nuno Correia: double-bass.
Tracks: Elefante Azul; Simple 3 Sounds; Pedra de Sal; Velho Lagar; Tema So; Para Ti; Apanho; Taksi; Moi; Nhos de Arros; Alem Querias; Esteves Aqui?; Norte Pertp; Drumpet II.
Personnel: Hugo Alves: trumpet, flugelhorn, composition; Jorge Moniz: drums; Ze Eduardo: double-bass;
Tracks: Dr. Fox; 66 Exchange; Baldas e Fiascos; One happy Morning; Pequenos Momentos; Drumpet At The Breakfast Table; Vento Nagua; Djazzerto; Finally The Call.
Personnel: Hugo Alves: trumpet, flugelhorn, composition; Michael Lauren: drums; Pablo Romero: electric piano; Rodrigo Monteiro: double-bass.