Wednesday, February 15, 2017

CD Review: Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio - Desire & Freedom

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio
Desire & Freedom
(Not Two)

"Freedom is a two-edged sword of which one edge is liberty and the other is responsibility, on which both edges are exceedingly sharp."

That excerpt from Jack Parsons' Freedom Is A Two-Edged Sword appears on the liner of Rodrigo Amado's new CD. It was published was in 1946, a good decade and a half before free jazz of any type came into its own. Parsons most likely wasn't talking specifically about music when he wrote it, but of course it does speak directly to the music. While some might think disparagingly that free improvisation does away with any type of listening skills and just goes for broke, the best examples of it betray an unspoken understanding between the participants. They have a responsibility to each other and the music to use their musical liberation in a way that leads to some new conclusion.

Rodrigo Amado understands that connection. The tenor saxophonist is a native of Lisbon, Portugal where he's been an active part of the free jazz scene, taking part in the earliest releases on the Clean Feed label. (More biographical info can be found here.) I reviewed a previous disc by the Motion Trio that added Jeb Bishop back in 2014. They've also performed with trumpeter Peter Evans. Desire and Freedom features the trio - Amado, cellist Miguel Mira, drummer Gabriel Ferrandini - stretching out on three tracks which take their names from ideas in Parsons' treatise.

"Freedom Is a Two-Edged Sword" sounds spontaneous yet it begins with Amado working on an idea that he reshapes and bends, returning regularly to a center. His tone is clear, not rough and noisy, but after about four minutes he starts blowing staccato altissimo notes. The trio never gets too frenetic, though Mira consistently plucks rapid countermelodies behind Amado, and Ferrandini does cut loose.

"Liberty" comes at it from a different angle. Cello and drums begin with upper register plucking and clattering respectively, while the tenor eventually slides in, ruminating with long, tender tones. The contrast between the rhythm section and the saxophone keeps things exciting. Eleven minutes in, the trio starts to get a bit wild but Amado still resides in a melodic area rather than going from shrieks.

"Responsibility," the longest track at 20 minutes, begins with a two-note tenor line that sounds vaguely reminiscent of an Albert Ayler theme. Amado doesn't go for that over-the-top delivery but the trio delivers the disc's wildest moments here. But even when they sound free, all their lines still feel connected, like their rapport can be heard, even on a recording. Interestingly, they sound like they reach a crossroads around 11 minutes, as if they could wrap things up right there. Instead they reconvene and assess - going back in for another excursion that includes a cello solo and more tenor wails. It was well worth it.

In addition to a compelling set, Desire & Freedom comes, like other Not Two discs, in a heavy cardboard gatefold sleeve similar to the layout of the US International Phonograph label.

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