Portuguese tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado has steadily become one of the premier players in the European free jazz arena, having banked the experience that comes through working with the likes of multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, trumpeter Peter Evans and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, reaping a rich dividend. Just how can be readily heard on Love Ghosts, the third release by the co-operative trio The Attic, where he is joined by fellow countryman bassist Gonçalo Almeida and Dutch drummer Onno Govaert, a line up unchanged since Summer Bummer (NoBusiness, 2020).
Amado boasts a husky but burnished tone which can recall Archie Shepp or Sonny Rollins, and he develops his lines with a surefootedness which makes their trajectory seem inevitable rather than serendipitous. On this evidence, he also increasingly displays a lyrical dimension, which tempers his pursuit of the extremes, and is particularly noticeable in the build-up or wind down when he sets out extemporized motifs in considered variations, the restated elements providing the kernels of his subsequent phrases.
On four joint creations from a 2020 studio session, the three principals demonstrate a spellbinding rapport. Even though each instrument sticks to its traditional role, their interplay is a precision-tooled thing of beauty, so while there may not be new ground broken here, the outcome is nonetheless terrific. The title track supplies the dazzle. Starting with a robust exchange of texturespizzicato harmonics butting up against reed split tones and malleted drumsthe pace picks up until they reach a peak of roiling excitementtenor skronk borne aloft by relentless cymbal breakers and the muscular physicality of the bass.
In contrast the remainder of the program takes a more measured approach. For example, even though after a stealthily tumbling intro, "New Tone" accelerates like a snowball heading downhill, it doesn't quite wreak the anticipated devastation, as Amado's shrieks instead open into a surprisingly fragile melodicism, which finds its echo in Almeida's resonant counterpoint. Govaert plays his part too, in lowering the temperature, as he changes the dynamic by unexpectedly dropping out, in one of those hallmarks of astute listening which shows an appreciation of the overall form as much as the moment. And that key quality, shared by all three, illuminates this immensely satisfying date.
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