Recorded at Portugal's Jazz em Agosto Festival in August of 2009, Live in Lisbon captures Peter Evans' longstanding quartet in concert, deconstructing a program of reconfigured standardsa regular feature of the New York-based trumpeter's oeuvre. Using classic American Songbook tunes as the basis for the quartet's freewheeling improvisations, Evans dismantles familiar melodies, harmonies and rhythms, rearranging them into kaleidoscopic panoramas that transpose wistful nostalgia into surreal futurism.
Evans' modular approach towards spontaneous composition evolves in a state of continuous transformation, as each member of the ensemble simultaneously contributes to the collage-like atmosphere. Employing key elements of recognizable standards as found materials rather than structural constraints, Evans and pianist Ricardo Gallo (replacing original quartet guitarist Brandon Seabrook), bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Kevin Shea reassemble archetypal themes with a mercurial sense of freedom. As Evans states in the liner notes, "It is great fun to see what elements of surprise we can squeeze out of something that, on its surface, may seem very familiar."
Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are," Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" and Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" are among the classics meticulously transformed by the quartet. Augmenting and expanding the tunes with altered chord progressions, open harmonies and vacillating tempos, these long-form works are linked by brief improvised interludes that outline a seamless narrative reminiscent of the quartet's self-titled debut.
The cerebral concepts at the heart of these labyrinthine creations require unparalleled virtuosity to execute, but stellar musicianship does not preclude passionate expressionism; the quartet's committed performance of these cubist interpretations brims with unbridled enthusiasm. Cutting across thickets of undulating counterpoint and cantilevered polyrhythms with his sonorous tone, Evans' intervallic cadences and coiled arpeggios spiral into the stratosphere with expansive lyricism, yielding a series of fascinating harmonic variations that eschew unnecessary pyrotechnics. For all his sturm und drangfrom crystalline filigrees to pounding tone clustersGallo's imposing contributions are comfortably rooted in the jazz tradition, more so than the futuristic interpolations Seabrook unleashed on the quartet's first record. Blancarte and Shea offer stalwart support throughout, their infectious ebullience elevating the bandstand.
A fascinating snapshot of one of today's best working bands, Live in Lisbon is a compelling document of Evans' total mastery of the trumpet and his visionary approach towards the tradition in the company of like-minded peers.