Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Carlos Bica & Azul featuring Frank Möbus and Jim Black: More Than This

Henning Bolte By

Sign in to view read count
Azul, comprising Portuguese bassist Carlos Bica, guitarist Frank Möbus from Germany and drummer Jim Black from New York, is one of those trios around with a highly notable profile and characteristic signature. No doubt many dedicated music lovers will have their own history with this group that has been active now for more than 20 years. Azul's self-titled debut album dates from 1996 (EmarCy), featuring eminent Portuguese vocalist Maria Joao, and trombonist Ray Anderson. It was followed by Twist (1999, Enja), Look What They've Done To my Song (2003, Enja), Believer (2006, Enja) and Things About (2011, Enja). Like other US-American musicians of his generation, Jim Black frequently worked in Europe in the beginning of his career (like Mark Turner or Bill Frisell). Both he and Frank Möbus are founding members of the influential group Der Rote Bereich. Carlos Bica worked in groups of Maria João before he founded Azul together with Black and Möbus. Besides in Der Rote Bereich Möbus is involved in a quartet with Daniel Erdmann, Samuel Rohrer and Vincent Courtois and in the group KUU! with singer extraordinaire Jelena Kuljic.

Bica, Black and Möbus are thus long-standing musical accomplices who have absorbed a broad range of musical influences. The trio unfolds and develops melodic baselines in appealing and dramatic ways. One of the trio's key pieces is "Believer," now a classic, from the eponymous fourth album released in 2006. The atmospheric ten minute- piece gradually unfolds Bolero-esquely, with great suspense, into its climax, terminating in energizing catharsis. It is a great example of the art of ostinato slowly speeding up, charging with manifold colors and exploding. The three musicians are maîtres de métier of sustain and lightning-quick twists and turns. Their music shifts in genius ways between flaming passion, romancing surrender, hammering rock and zigzagging ska.

Most striking is the trio's unity out of individuality, the way these three voices intersect and set in motion something that is 'more than this.' At moments Möbus' guitar and Bica's bass become indiscernible, sounding like one instrument. In other moments the guitar takes beautiful strange excursions into melodic space. Jim Black is a jolty, not strictly metrical drummer, razor-sharp, moving on the edge in intense phases of tension and release and squirrel-quick dynamic changes. As the bass easily moves into higher parts of the melody it often sounds like two guitars at work. The drumming changes smoothly between mysterious rustling, accelerating forward drive, and playfully 'mirroring' melody and harmony. It is an adequately weighted counterpart to Bica's dark wooden bass. The trio's melodic music, full of nested contrasts, rhythmical changes and dynamic firework, takes its time to unfold, emerge, hoover and detonate.

The album starts with the blue green soughing of "Mafalda" that is strongly reminiscent of the rustling of the wind in Lisbon's Botanical Garden where apparently the cover photo was taken by Vera Marmelo. Slowly the melody unfolds, but the piece, composed by Bica and Portuguese pianist João Paulo Esteves da Silva, keeps its vegetal nature. The subsequent "A lã e a neve" (Wool and Snow) also departs slowly with a simple guitar riff from which a drum pattern emerges that happens to burst into drum-and guitar violence. "I wonder, wonder I do" is a dreamy entr'acte leading into the pinball percussion of the curious "Whale Rider" with its roaring bass and violent guitar eruptions. North-American folk song "Silver Dagger" is an integrand song with some hawaii-ing tendencies, followed by the rocking "Skeleton Dance," the lyrical "Na rama do Alecrim" (In the rosemary foliage), a folk song from the Alentejo region in Portugal, the driving "Patchwork" and the pointillist "Jolly Jumper" with its lively rhythm changes. "Wattenmeer" (Wadden Sea) is a longer, brooding centerpiece named after the intertidal zone in the South Eastern part of the North Sea. The ska-like "XY Ungelöst," named after a popular German television program, is a feast of Jim Black's drumming and the concluding "Sam" is an equally festive and visceral piece with a soft melody circulating in a hard rocking embedding.

Azul is one of the most significant and fertile trios of this moment next to other guitar-bass-drums trios like that of Bill Frisell, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen, of Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and Kenny Wollesen or of Jakob Bro, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron respectively Jon Christensen. More Than This is what it says. It is ultimate emergent melodic music on an unusual high level of variation that makes the song sing in captivating ways.

Track Listing: Mafalda; A lã e a neve; I wonder, wonder I do; Whale Rider; Silver Dagger; Skeleton Dance; Na rama do Alecrim; Patchwork; Jolly Jumper; Wattenmeer; XY Ungelöst; Sam;

Personnel: Carlos Bica: double bass; Frank Möbus: guitar; Jim Black: drums and percussion

Title: More Than This | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


comments powered by Disqus

Album Reviews
Read more articles
Azul in Ljubljana

Azul in Ljubljana

Clean Feed Records

More Than This

More Than This

Clean Feed Records


Things About

Clean Feed Records


Carlos Bica +...

Clean Feed Records



Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Bulería Brooklyniana Album Reviews
Bulería Brooklyniana
By Dan Bilawsky
January 23, 2019
Read At The Hill Of James Magee Album Reviews
At The Hill Of James Magee
By Mark Corroto
January 23, 2019
Read Stomping Off From Greenwood Album Reviews
Stomping Off From Greenwood
By Mike Jurkovic
January 23, 2019
Read Live: The Rites of Spring Festival 2018 Album Reviews
Live: The Rites of Spring Festival 2018
By Roger Weisman
January 23, 2019
Read Runner in the Rain Album Reviews
Runner in the Rain
By Jack Bowers
January 22, 2019
Read Driftglass Album Reviews
By Chris May
January 22, 2019
Read Pure Magic Album Reviews
Pure Magic
By Mark Sullivan
January 22, 2019