ROUND-UP REPORT: festival Desvio (Parede, Portugal)

Gabriel Ferrandini (Red Trio, Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio, Ferrandini Trio)
Photo credit : Henning Bolte

Festival Desvio 2016
(Parede, SMUP, June 2 – 4. Report and photos by Henning Bolte)

A meeting of jazz musicians called DETOUR, DESVIO in Portuguese, is a clear signal to leave the beaten track; to look for the less known, to watch and listen in a less explored area to discover hidden gems. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has become increasingly attractive the last few years for various groups due to its special touch of known/unknown, near/far, familiar/unfamiliar, modernity/native traditions and its very own aesthetics and not yet over-mystified mystics. From a central European perspective Lisbon is on the South-western Atlantic periphery or it is half way to Brooklyn. The important record label Clean Feed, with its numerous links to New York, and to various cities in Central and Eastern Europe, is a clear manifestations of these constellations, and is at the heart of this remarkable festival.

Parede, the place where Desvio took place at SMUP, Sociedade Musical União Paredense, a local music society founded in 1899, is even 30 kilometres closer to Brooklyn. Situated at the wide mouth of river Tago near Estoril and Cascais, it is one of the Western satellites of Lisbon along the shore of the Tago river. It became “a place” recently when record label Clean Feed gave up its record shop Trem Azul near Cais do Sodre in Lisbon and the label’s head quarter moved to Parede. Pedro Costa of Clean Feed quite soon started to organize concerts at SMUP (he somehow wasn’t able not to do it). Somewhere on the move along European festivals and meetings the idea was born to combine a board meeting of the Europe Jazz Network with a presentation of Portuguese music (labelled ‘jazz’) at Parede. Pedro Costa one of the important organizers in the Portuguese jazz scene and cofounder of the Clean Feed label, agreed to organize/curate a three night program showing some facets of jazz from Portugal.

Hugo Carvalhais, Mario Costa (Nebulosa Trio w/ Émile Parisien)
Photo credit Henning Bolte

DAY 1, Quinta-feira

DESVIO presented four concerts in the first night. My personal highlight was the performance of bassist Hugo Carvalhais from Porto with his Nebulosa Trio comprising well known wild soprano sax man Emile Parisien and the amazing swirls of drummer Mario Costa. The appealing way Carvalhais creates attractive dark moods growing into energetic bursts worked excellently in the combination with Parisien – even in a piece inspired by Hildegard van Bingen (“O Clarissima Virga”).

The name of the trio fits its music that has a certain kind of verdant mystery characteristic of the north of Portugal and the Galician area with Santiago de Compostela. Carvalhais is a musician who doesn’t fit into the ‘free camp’ – but doesn’t fit into the mainstream either. He has used this to his advantage and has ended up developing his very own rich musical mood with intriguing contrasts and improbable connections.

The other three concerts came from the free jazz mould and beat their own track. Young saxophonist Pedro Sousa delivered sets with two groups, one as part of the threesome of cello player Miguel Mira, familiar from Rodrigo Amado’s Motion Trio, and drummer Afonso Simões. The cello makes a big difference in this kind of music and Mira was really working hard to create a percussive flow of mighty waves. The trinity is in fact revealed as a trio of percussionists at work with constantly interspersed riffs by tenorist Pedro Sousa. Sousa clearly revealed to be inspired by the brötziness of legendary veteran Peter. Sousa played long brötzy stretches with a certain lucidness in his playing that hinted into an interesting direction. The threesome kept the sound rolling and brötzing on heavily with solid ground control.

Next was Sousa’s participation in a new trio formation of explosive young and experienced drummer Gabriel Ferrandini with bassist Hernani Faustino both part of the well-known Red Trio. The three moved forward in fast mode thereby creating cascading razor sharp sound splitters initiating chain reactions of fissions. After a while the unit arrived at a slower pace and entered a quieter place with some beautiful repetitious moves, magnificently carried by Faustino’s bass playing. It could have opened access to some terra incognita but the group shifted back into its defining – hectic – pace.

Pedro Lopes, electronics/turntables
Photo credit: Henning Bolte

DAY 2, Sexta-feira

The second night brought again four concerts. New for me personally were electronic musician Pedro Lopes, a Berlin resident, and the trinity of reedist Ze Bruno Parrinha, guitarist Luis Lopes and cellist Ricardo Jacinto premiering Parrinha’s work Garden, just released on Clean Feed.

Electronic musician Pedro Lopes was the great unknown, a kind of wild card, corringa, of the whole event. His electronic wizardy appeared as slightly strange but in the long run revealed as utterly fascinating, enjoyable and likeable for almost everyone in the audience. He showed a deep dedication to what he was doing, he turned and twisted things around in a surprising and appealing way and he was totally immersed in and occupied by his playfulness. He apparently did all the things just for that. He played his very own dialectical game with the machinery – concerned with and acting through opposing forces. By his bodily movements and percussive actions he made things rapidly bouncing to and fro and by this counteracting the machine with its deeply imprinted, manipulatable sounds. There was no showing off virtuosity as its coolest master but it was a really creative playful game, convincing and delighting that happened there.

Next performance, by reedist Ze Bruno Parrinha together with electric guitarist Luis Lopes and cellist Ricardo Jacinto, proceeded the opposite way. Calmly and in slow pace, almost ritualistically, it seemed the three musicians were uncovering a buzzing sound still hidden in space. By microtonal movements and scattered sound particles they found and shaped frottage-like “their” wavering spectral line, their own deeper correspondence and carefully formed imperfect way of staying in harmony. By this they also arrived at tipping moments when it toppled over, started to crumble or became rampant with shorter instants of stark contrast and peristaltic twitches. Nonetheless they regained their stream from which a verily cathedral sonority arose. And, it has to be mentioned; the parts with the clarinet were the most beautiful and fitted the best.

The quintet of young bassist João Hasselberg tapped into a different barrel. His group with vocalist Jana Espinada, trumpeter Diogo Duque, pianist Luis Figueiredo and drummer Bruno Pedroso presented music of an enriched singer-songwriter format with hymnic qualities and extended instrumental colors. It is an interesting and challenging choice demanding a balancing of purity and colour, strong simplicity and spheric elements. The hymnic chants offered some good attempts but were hampered by its ambitiousness. There is still work to be done to meet the fine line where naturalness can thrive.

The final performance was quite a different, heavy calibre. It came from one of the most established and internationally proven formations of the Portuguese scene, the Motion Trio of saxophonist Rodrigo Amado with cellist Miguel Mira and young drummer extraordinaire Gabriel Ferrandini. Amado works and records regularly with the likes of Peter Evans and Joe McPhee and has accomplished a highly appreciated position in international polls. Their music comes from the “free jazz” mould and has developed into a version with wonderfully floating passages emerging from heavy roars, salvos and high energy cross-firing. Amado is a determined, energetic player never overblowing just for the sake of showing how heavy he is. He works from and to the structuring of the music no matter if it is quiet or fast and roaring loud. Gabriel Ferrandini is one of the most impressive young ‘free’ drummers in the field, with a significant personal style. His drumming is explosive, with a great flow, full of nuance and quick dynamic adaptation to all modes of movement. He figured in three constellations during DESVIO, the Motion Trio, the Red Trio and is own trio. The real beast in this high energetic troop however is cellist Miguel Mira. Being a diligent worker he unlocked and was texturing and chasing unlike many bassists would be able to do. Fragmented parts driven by Ferrandini’s splintering drum sounds alternated in the performance with calmer even lyrical passages where Ferrandini could be seen reverting to some delicate brush work for some moments. With high energy and great dynamics the threesome went through arousing upturn-downturn curves safely arriving at a natural halt. Sometimes it could even have happened a bit earlier … .

Susana Santos Silva (Lama). Photo credit: Henning Bolte

DAY 3, Sábado

The final day had five remarkable configurations: a solo, three trios and concluding a quartet of the youngest generation. Outstanding acts were Lama and the Red Trio both matured bands, highly profiled with a striking signature.

It started with the duo of trumpeter Luis Vicente and electronic musician Jari Marjamaki joined by Dutch guitarist Jasper Stadhouders as guest. Luis Vicente, highly active on the Portuguese scene with his own groups or in Clocks and Clouds with Rodrigo Pinheiro and Hernani Faustino has also been reaching out to international collaboration such as in the French Portuguese formation Deux Maisons with the Ceccaldi Brothers on strings or in the Dutch-German collective Spinifex. Jari Marjamaki is a Finish producer and electronic musician residing in Lisbon and involved in the improve-scene there. Jasper Stadhouders is a member of Dutch-German collective Spinifex and part of the Amsterdam DoeK collective. Coequal and loud they stirred it all up thereby producing a floating heavy brew that merged the flashing electro-acoustic traces.

Lama is a young trio with a firm foothold in Rotterdam and Porto/Stockholm comprising two Portuguese musicians, trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and bassist Gonçalo Almeida, and one Canadian musician, drummer Greg Smith. The trio has at its disposal a wide range of techniques and approaches well absorbed from the jazz tradition, all of which are exploited creatively in service of their imaginations that took shape in the albums Oneiros (2011), Lamacal (2013) with Chris Speed as guest (see my review) and the recent The Elephant’s Journey (2015) with Joachim Badenhorst as guest, all on Clean Feed. At Lama’s core is an engaging combination of roughness and melody, audacious and challenging line drawing, and a special unity of the pleasure of playing and deep concentration.

Its Desvio performance proved again convincingly that Lama is a real band, reliable, constantly improving, evolving and resting on solid foundations and wealthy sources of artistic inspiration, musically and non-musically. The freshness, freedom and beauty with which they rendered their own songs was simply stunning and captivating. You could hear the reflections of the musician’s rich experience of playing in other configurations – especially applying to Susana Santos Silva who just came in from a series of performances in Germany, New York and Chicago with among others Craig Taborn, Thomas Morgan, Mat Maneri, Kris Davis, Ingrid Laubrock, Kaja Draksler and Dave Rempis. That she appears this summer on festivals as Moers, Molde and Saalfelden also says something. Lama’s light will shine on more places far and near. It’s time.

Lama was followed by a compact and overwhelming performance of Red Trio, another rock solid and enduring Lisbon formation, now underway during eight years with a series of notable collaborations as the one with saxophonist John Butcher. The trio’s last album, Summer Skyshift, is a registration of its appearance at last year’s edition of prestigious Jazz em Agosto festival (review here)

Pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro started with a surprising straight ahead bouncing line after a while mutating into Cecil Taylor mode of playing, strongly underpinned and driven by Gabriel Ferrandini’s swirling splitters and Hernani Faustino’s mighty permeating vibrations. As usual the musicians of Red Trio can transform the seething sound mass that results from it. This time the music for moments mutated into hyper sound wave effects known from The Necks after which drummer Ferrandini went into unexpected still higher breath-taking acceleration as a kind of final sprint which made the sound exploding more heavily and fiery. Red Trio can lift up a whole building, did it at DESVIO and put it safely back right in place and time too.

It was the right moment to change to a different pace, to return to a meadow with bushes of whispers and small gestures, to give shape to some well timed pausing turns, to experience sound in a different semblance. Trumpeter Sei Miguel is an intriguing highly idiosyncratic musician. When I listened to his new album (Five) Stories Untold on Clean Feed I was captured by his unique way of pausing, phrasing and articulating (some samples on RADIO here)

It could be complete nonsense, but … because it remained quite fascinating it has this so called (unexplainable) something. It became even more intense when it seemed that he always plays THAT same piece. All this revealed as still more intense and fascinating in his live performance, which was a particular combination of spoken and played narrative. He is highly self-centred, self-assured and at first sight/hearing a bit awkward. He shared his uncommon perceptions with the audience in an uncommon way. He was open, focused – and yet enigmatic at the same time. But the result was that it worked: listeners lent him their ears.

As final act musicians of the youngest generation hit the stage. The quartet of twenty-one year old saxophonist Ricardo Toscano with pianist João Pedro Coelho, bassist Romeu Tristão and drummer João Pereira with great bravura presented a compact, muscular and fast version of strongly bop-inflected music. In the long run it became too much streamlined musical athletics and thereby less enervating. It will be a challenge for these talented and skilled young musicians whether to perfect the present state or to enter the zone of proximal development.

Miguel Mira (Rodrigo Amado Trio, Pedro Sousa 3)
Photo credit: Nuno Martins


The program reflected the bandwidth and some essential traits mainly of free improvisation in Portugal. It expanded insight, appreciation, knowledge and again and again caused surprise! Of course there is more and much more to explore!

The DESVIO performances revealed that there are distinctive and unique configurations, colours and forms. There are radical and versatile musicians with a voice of their own and you can find strong longstanding and evolving working bands having established or are establishing reputation and collaboration on the international scene. The program offered good chances for the audience to connect with some essential characteristics and to dig into it. Desvio achieves what it sets out to do. For the Portuguese scene it has had a strong encouraging effect so far, and it has placed a genuine highlight in the program(ming) at SMUP, Parede.

Categories: miscellaneous

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