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The Attic: Summer Bummer

Troy Dostert By

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No, the title of the latest release from The Attic, a free-improvisational trio comprised of Rodrigo Amado, Gonçalo Almeida and Onno Govaert, has nothing to do with the track by Lana Del Rey. It is instead taken from the name of the Summer Bummer Festival, at which this superb group performed in Antwerp, Belgium in 2018. Known widely as a tenor saxophonist who resolutely shuns compositions and prefers to play completely free, Amado has gained significant acclaim for his work with Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler and Chris Corsano. While The Attic is a less-heralded outfit, its music should not go overlooked, as it contains all the fire and disciplined intensity of Amado's best work, albeit in a slightly scaled-down format.

This version of the group is different than the one that appeared on its self-titled debut in 2017, when Amado was joined by his Portuguese compatriots, bassist Almeida and drummer Marco Franco. Fortunately Dutch drummer Govaert takes over admirably here for Franco, showing himself to be quite comfortable in negotiating the spontaneous conversations at the heart of three lengthy improvisations.

A live recording, there's an unmistakable intimacy to the performance. It feels as though one is right next to the stage, making it even easier to follow the subtleties of each instrument—and there is a good deal on offer in this regard, as this is a trio with a razor-sharp focus, without relying on throwaway notes or meandering segments. Listening to the rich, bluesy tones with which Amado begins the album as the opening stroll of "Walking Metamorphosis" gets underway, with Almeida's well-defined peripatetic bass lines and Govaert's crisp, punctuated interjections, enables one to appreciate the gradual building of intensity that characterizes the track. The patience of the trio is extraordinary, with Almeida and Govaert just as important as Amado in giving the track its underlying momentum and catalyzing its periodic surges. By the time we get to the scalding conclusion, a powerhouse finish from Govaert, we wonder how exactly we got there—almost sixteen minutes later—so imperceptible is the gradual evolution of the music. A metamorphosis, indeed.

The other two tracks possess similar characteristics of controlled fury, careful restraint and a sometimes almost lyrical quality from Amado, who is never one to resort to histrionics when a more subtle approach is called for. "Free for All" isn't exactly the over-the-top cacophony one might expect from its title; instead, moments of bounded dialogue prevail, and the opening discourse between Almeida's arco bass and Amado's searching tenor gains its emotional power from its spiritual intensity as much as its edgy acerbity. While Almeida and Govaert do eventually unleash Amado's incendiary tendencies, those eruptions are even more effective having followed the more tempered expressions that preceded them. And "Aimless at the Beach" is similarly effective in giving voice to Amado's multiple modes, from gentle yearnings to rapid-fire phrases to scorching, impassioned pleas.

Even if it's no longer the all-Portuguese team as it was originally conceived, The Attic's sophomore release is certainly just as good, and to hear the trio in a live setting is an added bonus.

Track Listing: Walking Metamorphosis; Free for All; Aimless at the Beach.

Personnel: Rodrigo Amado: tenor saxophone; Gonçalo Almeida: double bass; Onno Govaert: drums.

Title: Summer Bummer | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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