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MoFrancesco Quintetto: Maloca

Ian Patterson By

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Italian bassist Francesco Valente's fascination with the culture of Brazil inspired the title of this album. A moloca is an Amazonian ancestral longhouse and a habitat for sharing knowledge, stories and music. In this case, the communal home is his adopted Lisbon and Valente's family is a multi-national quintet whose musical ancestors have bequeathed the jazz vernacular in all its global diversity. Together, the musical narratives that the MoFrancesco Quintetto shares draw from traditional and contemporary jazz, Iberian folkloric flavors and 20th century European classical music.

Melody and rhythm are key components of Valente's compositions and form the launching pads for collective and individual improvisation. German saxophonist Johannes Krieger—a long-time collaborator of Valente's in world-fusion groups Terrakota and Tora Tora Big Band—and Brazilian saxophonist Guto Lucena carve melodious motifs in unison that bookend the compositions; in between, pianist Iuri Gaspar and Valente's evolving ostinatos combine with drummer Miguel Moreira's inventive rhythms and subtle dynamics to create a marked sense of groove.

Only on the boppish "Naira" with its fast walking bass and on "Soul," a throwback to the hard-driving gospel blues of saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's bands is the idiom overtly in the classic North American tradition. Elsewhere, the arrangements have a more expansive quality and there's greater ebb and flow to the group's voice. Valente gives the soloists plenty of rein and "Tchap Tchap Tchap" introduces extended trumpet, saxophone and piano solos, accompanied by just bass and drums.

Latin rhythms color the episodic title track. Bass and piano join in a compelling groove as Krieger and Lucena announce the snaking melody. It's Gaspar who tears loose first, propelled by Valente's searching bass lines and Moreira, whose whisking brushes skip like a cajon. From a tranquil quintet space, Lucena on tenor builds patiently. As soon as he steps on the gas Moreira—reverting to sticks—and Gaspar follow suit as the quintet builds a head of steam. Reunited with the head, a celebratory unified cry of "maloca!' concludes a stirring chapter. "Hamsa" beguiles with a smoldering passion that catches fire when Lucena's keening solo hits full stride.

A triptych of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok's compositions provides a different foundation for exploration. Valente's bass faithfully traces the melody of "An Evening at The Village" with minimal piano accompaniment. Shortly, Bartok's nostalgia is replaced by a dancing, Latin-tinged piano-trio passage of sunnier visage. Bass and piano then revisit the original theme. Valente's sparse arrangement, with trumpet and saxophone sitting out, highlights the beauty in Bartok's simplicity. "Tet Roman Tanc" is a mini-suite onto itself; in turn somber, buoyant, serenely lyrical and comedic. On "Buciumeana—Romanian Folk Dances" bass once again replicates the defining melody before muted trumpet, bass clarinet, piano and drums inject fleeting crescendo. Krieger's sweetly melancholic alto gives way to wistful unaccompanied piano before a unified closing segment of chamber ensemble elegance.

Whatever the source of inspiration or the idiom that Valente's quintet converses in, the dialog is engaging, passionate and lyrical. The ancestors would surely approve, though in Valente's pursuit of original music, so too will many in the modern jazz family.

Track Listing: Tchap Tchap Tchap; Maloca; Hamsa; An Evening At The Village; Ket Roman Tanc; Buciumeana-Romanian Folk Dances; Naira; Soul.

Personnel: Francesco Valente: bass; Johannes Krieger: trumpet; Guto Lucena: reeds; Iuri Gaspar: piano; Miguel Moreira: drums.

Title: Maloca | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Art of Life Records

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