The title TGB
is not necessarily a Portuguese translation of "Taking Care of Business," though it certainly could be. In this case, the acronym only refers to the instrumentation: Tuba, Guitarra y Bateria (tuba, guitar and drums), certainly one of the more original instrumental combinations to occur in the history of improvised music. Joe Daley and Ray Draper, after all, had to rely on much more traditional instrumentation for their rare leadership opportunities (Draper's band including John Coltrane, among others), but the uniqueness of instrumentation naturally yields to a unique and cooperative ensemble voice.
TGB is formed of some of the most uncompromising and acclaimed musicians in Portugal: the young tubaist Sérgio Carolino, guitarist Mário Delgado and drummer Alexandre Frazão. Though they have played a number of concerts in their home country, this is their first recording as a unit. Delgado is probably the most noted improviser in the group; he currently leads a frantic quintet with Frazão and the ubiquitous Carlos Barretto in the bass chair, a group that recalls some of Tim Berne's and Ray Anderson's bands in both instrumentation and feel.
Delgado's guitar playing is an interesting and complicated stylistic hodgepodge of rock, jazz, country and traditional Mediterranean influences, moving from heavily distorted gutbucket shenanigans to the most fleet (yet still dissonant) maneuvers. Carolino is a serious technician, as he parallels (rather than smears along with) Delgado's guitar lines throughout the often freewheeling head arrangements and approaches multiphonics with all the verve of trombonists like Albert Mangelsdorff (see the intro to "Lilli's Funk").
There is a rather strong rock element to the proceedings, though the complexity of interaction between the three and the intricacy of the arrangements certainly spells "jazz." Much of this is, of course, due to the combination of Delgado's pyrotechnics and the insistent propulsion of Frazão, but if it is a jazz-rock hybrid, then certainly it has fallen far from the tree. After all, these elements coalesce to create a balanced whole rather than a dichotomy of influence, and the seamless way in which textural jumps are completed just serves to bolster the TGB manifesto. It is with this in mind that explorations of themes by Ellington, Monk and Powell can stand up alongside a Led Zeppelin cover, funky jaunts and moody freedom, and all the better for it.
What could have seemed on the surface like an experiment in instrumentation over a few choice themes or a lapse into noodling is in reality a prime example of not only a unique and telepathic ensemble unity, but an approach that circumvents all conventions of both rock and improvised music. Delgado, Carolino, and Frazao would probably hate to hear it uttered, but if "fusion" really equals synthesis, then they have created one of the most valuable fusion records of the past thirty years.