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Javier Subatin: Mountains


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Javier Subatin: Mountains
Guitarist Javier Subatin may have gotten his start in his native Argentina, but he's been in Europe since 2014, when he began working in Paris. An eventual relocation to Portugal put him in contact with some of that country's most adventurous improvisers. His debut release, Autotelic, was a duo record with João Paulo Esteves da Silva, released in 2018 on Portugal's Sintoma label, and he followed it up with Variaciones, a self-produced quintet album in 2019 and a trio album, Trance, with saxophonist Daniel Sousa and drummer Diogo Alexandre on ears&eyes Records in 2020. Subatin's prodigious output, and the sheer diversity of personnel on his releases thus far, reveals a restless creative spirit that seems hard to contain within conventional jazz categories. His 2021 album, Mountains, exhibits the same peripatetic sensibility, with another new group of colleagues from Portugal's ever-fertile scene.

The opener, "Mountain #1," seems designed to showcase Subatin's impressive chops: it's a fiercely-grooving track with insatiable energy, propelled by Subatin's meticulous lines and the unwavering support of bassist Demian Cabaud and drummer Pedro Melo Alves, who with Subatin comprise the core trio on all of the album's twelve tracks. It's almost four minutes of top-notch, airtight guitar fusion—but that's just the first cut. The second track is one of several freely-improvised pieces on the record, and it offers a dramatically different window into Subatin's playing, with the emphasis on group interaction over individual feats of musical mettle. Subatin's abstract effects merge nicely with Cabaud's frenetic arco and Melo Alves' esoteric roaming on his kit for the relatively brief interlude, before the trio again settles in on the more directly tuneful "Mountain #5," giving the three musicians an opportunity to delve more fully into the lyrical side of Subatin's muse. And so it goes for the remainder of the record, with longer composed excursions interspersed with shorter, freer explorations.

The addition of other musicians on a number of tracks reveals yet more facets of Subatin's creativity. Pianist Samuel Gapp's speedy flights on prepared piano provide the perfect foil for Subatin on the freely improvised "Birds," but Gapp is also effective on "Mountain #3," where his temperate meanderings transition into steady chordal figures to fuel the track's developing momentum. Cellist Ricardo Jacinto and alto saxophonist João Mortágua display similar range, as Jacinto's fiery intensity energizes the hard-driving "Mountain #2" and Mortágua's understated elegance carries much of the subtle beauty on "Mountain #6."

It's a tribute to Subatin's deferential approach that most of the album simply doesn't feel like a "guitarist's" record. Instead, he identifies the distinctive abilities of his partners and gives them ample opportunities to merge with the trio organically as they appear together in their various configurations. If the plenitude of styles and personnel sometimes renders the album as a whole somewhat less than fully cohesive, it certainly takes nothing away from Subatin's remarkable ambition and his rapidly emerging role in European jazz. This is a musician we should be hearing from a lot in the coming years.

Track Listing

Mountain #1; Rocks; Mountain #5; Birds; Mountain #3; Cave; Mountain #4; Ground; Mountain #2; Mountain #6; Shadows; Solo #5.


Javier Subatin: guitar; Demian Cabaud: bass; Pedro Melo Alves: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

João Mortágua: alto sax (10, 11, 12); Ricardo Jacinto: cello (9, 11, 12); Samuel Gapp: piano (4, 5, 11, 12).

Album information

Title: Mountains | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Habitable Records

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