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This third album from Portuguese bassist André Carvalho is a study in contrasts. Inspired by the work of artist Hieronymus Boschhis style in general and, of course, the titular paintingCarvalho set about composing a long-form work reflecting the range and balance of character(s) endemic to the mysterious Dutch painter's creations. This stunning suite is the result.
Reflecting Bosch's art, Carvalho deals with and delves into the topic of humanity. That, naturally, results in a balance of highs and lows, joys and fears, and the concrete and surreal. The stage is set with a "Prelude" hinting at those ideals. There, Carvalho's arco bass embodies the shifting sands of time and being, Eitan Gofman's bass clarinet adds a touch of dark-hued beauty to the picture, the blending and swirling of said horn with Oskar Stenmark's trumpet and Jeremy Powell's soprano forms a rich and moody sonority that fills the canvas, and guitarist Andre Matos and drummer Rodrigo Recabarren prove sensitive to all of the changes that develop in the atmosphere. It's a finely-calibrated sextet that tends this garden.
As Carvalho and his compatriots move deeper and deeper into Bosch's world, the music comes to lean on some of its central strugglesmost notably, the pitting of form against freedom and style against self. For example, take "The Fountain," where Gofman's peaceable flute musings are set against a backdrop of uncertainty. It's but one of many illustrations of how one man's art begets another's; as the program plays on, not surprisingly, there are plenty more.
Strong performances abound across the album, as each track manages to stand on its own and complement the others. Carvalho captures the imagination with his true solo stand and artfully individualistic rendering of the Dragon Tree on "Dracaena Draco." The myth and mystery endemic to avant-garde attitudes come to the fore on "Of Mermaids And Mermen." Sound sculpture and ambient music reckon with the void and the great unknown on "The Towers Of Eden." And slamming rock meets with skewed and skewered horns on the aptly titled "Evil Parade." Carvalho's work, like that of his inspiration for this project, is both in bounds and out of this world, presenting earthly delights and otherworldly insights all at once.
Track Listing: Prelude; The Fools Of Venus; The Fountain; Dracaena Draco; Of Mermaids And Mermen; Cherries, Brambles
And Strawberries; The Towers Of Eden; Evil Parade; The Thinker In The Tavern; The Forlorn Mill; Phowa
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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