Rodrigo Amado: Motion Trio (2009)
Abstraction is too often both separated from and associated with improvised music. Either sounds are divorced from meaning outside themselves, or expected to tell some sort of story. Neither euphemism really works that well. But image is a central fact of Portuguese improviser Rodrigo Amado's work, whether referring to the representational or nonrepresentationalafter all, in addition to being a tenor and baritone saxophonist, he's an accomplished photographer whose work takes on the angularity of Stephen Shore (see his Surface (European Echoes, 2007), dedicated to Shore) with a profoundly delicate, humanist approach (Shore: lived-in, Amado: lived). Furthermore, his father Manuel is a painter. Though one should be careful to draw too many direct lines between an artist's various mediums and projects, the comparison between Amado's visual artwork and his music is an interesting one to make.
It's not that the images are entirely depictive, nor are the tumbling, keening tenor phrases that recall a jollier Sonny Rollins or Archie Shepp. But there's a hungry liveliness amid the bustling contemporary whimsy of both Searching for Adam (a recent Amado exhibition of New York photos) and the saxophonist's music. Exclusively on tenor, he's joined on Motion Trio by cellist Miguel Mira and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini for six collective improvisations. In Amado's images, the consistent result is finding detail and personality in the bustling hodgepodge of modern life. Free improvisation can offer similaritiesa tremendous wealth of activity sometimes in opposition, at other instances merging in perfect sync. But the expert improviser exhibits individuality and poise, as well as a structuring sense of detail.
"Language Call" opens the set, Amado's tenor recalling the West Indian lilt of Rollins or moments of Ornette Coleman's Ornette on Tenor (Atlantic, 1962), as Ferrandini produces dampened flits in loose micro-activity parallel to the leader's horn. Amado has a broad sound, gritty and searching amid pithy elaborations. Rather than the blowsy tenor approach aligned with post-Ayler Europeans, cadent tension and declamatory repetition mark a phraseology fitting in a melodically stable, rhythmically free context. The use of a cello rather than bass in a supporting role is interesting, and gives the music fleetness amid a narrower range. "Testify!" exemplifies a somewhat laconic, syrupy approach at the outset, bluesy flecks and singsong particles splaying out and becoming hard-bitten as Ferrandini and Mira roll and hack in a decidedly event-oriented approach to rhythm. Given to a duo three minutes in, their wood and metal spar offer curious contrast to Amado's velvety punches.
The detailed activity of skittering European free improvisation is certainly here amid snare patter, muted and bashed gongs, and guttural cello thwack, but Amado's tenor playing is so earthy in its concreteness that the group's motion remains highly traditional even at its most explosive. Not a power trio in the usual sense, Amado, Mira and Ferrendini present a distinctive fluidity both prickly and warm in this series of inviting abstractions.
Track Listing: Language Call; Testify!; Radical Leaves; As We Move...; Ballad; In All Languages.
Personnel: Rodrigo Amado: tenor saxophone; Miguel Mira: cello; Gabriel Ferrandini: drums.