Feb 24 2014
This is an album with a breezy presence, utilizing space and motion to allow the seeds of strong melodies to bloom patiently and rhythms to develop a conversational tone that is soothing and engaging both… even when the gas pedal gets depressed. Ponto de Partida, the debut album by guitarist André Santos, gains that wide open feel despite bringing several influences to the table. Aspects of jazz, rock, folk, and Portuguese music all inform this recording, and by matching the commonalities of each, Santos keeps the album from getting cluttered, allowing songs to retain a cohesive personality throughout the length of this fine recording.
Your album personnel: André Santos (guitar), João Hasselberg (double bass), João Pereira (drums), Ricardo Toscano (alto sax), and guests: Gianni Gagliardi (tenor sax), Joana Espadinha (vocals, lyrics), and Margarida Campelo (vocals).
Opening track “Zion” is high energy, but behaves as a controlled force of will. Guitar’s rhythmic attack is both comforting and catchy, especially as it switches between applications of tempo and melody. The song’s reliance on repetition speaks to its varied influences, especially those of rock and folk, though the interludes between those sections shepherds it back into jazz territory.
“Reverso da Mehalda” is the most intriguing of all the album tracks. A song that switches things up a few times through its duration, each new evolution revealing a quality not so different from the previous, yet possessing the appealing unpredictability of an about-face. It begins with a rustic folk music ease, a contemplative demeanor that allows the ear to consider both the qualities of the small sounds slowly expressed while also concentrating on the wide open expanse of the silences allowed to settle in the spaces in-between. The subsequent shifts into post-jazz and jazz-rock territories kick the temperature up a notch or two, and the contemplative demeanor is traded for a personality much more inclined to extroverted activities.
There’s the modern jazz-rock of “Siso,” in which Santos’ electric guitar sears a speedy path through the heart of the song, eventually passing the baton to saxophonist Toscano, who brings the heat, too, but balances things out by emitting a heat more akin to a post-bop solo.
The sunny presence of title-track “Ponto de Partida” provides some nice moments, most notably the interplay of guitar, sax, and Hasselberg’s bass section, in which they all tread lightly about one another, an almost blithe demeanor, but which results in its entirety as a delicate weave of sound that’s quite lovely.
“Avô João” is a nice little straight-ahead tune, with guest Gagliardi’s tenor sax strolling pleasantly out front, and keeping the genial melody close by at all times. “Qwerty,” also, keeps things pretty straight-forward, mostly a vehicle for sax and guitar to get some work in, but then it goes through a costume change, and comes back heavy, with a grind and crunch of electric guitar and the bullet spray of drums. It’s one of two moments where the group veers off course on this album, and eschews the enjoyable breezy atmosphere it had spent so much time constructing.
“Viagem de Olhos Vendados” brings things back in line where the title-track had left off. A smoky tune with a thick melody that drifts airily on by, languorous expressions on saxophone and guitar carry the tune, though Pereira’s brief outbursts on drums interspersed throughout may be the tune’s strongest element… providing a bit of contrast without sacrificing the song’s predominant ease.
“Mutantes” brings in guest vocalists Campelo and Espadinha for a cantabile, singing about the way a life changes when in love, and giving the album a romantic aspect before the edgier emotions of the album’s final track.
The album ends with “Presságio,” and it goes out with a bang. It’s the “other” moment that discards the album’s serene attitude, but in this instance (as opposed to the interruption of Avô João), there’s something more logical about this rise of voices and intensity… that an album that has expressed itself with the tranquil ease of a lazy Summer day would conclude things by slowly building up to a roar for the grand finale… there’s a logic to that construction that transcends genre and time. And after that big wave of big sound finally crests, the song, and album, end with a gentle sonic dispersal of sound, on a quiet note, much like it began.
Really, just a nice debut recording, presenting a point of view that doesn’t closely resemble much else on the scene. A tuneful album, with an enjoyable breezy disposition.
Released on TOAP Music.
Jazz from the Lisbon, Portugal scene.
Some Other Things You Should Probably Know:
Santos appears as a guest on another recent release from the Lisbon, Portugal scene… Andre Carvalho‘s Memoria de Amiba, a solid recording released near the end of 2013, and which (I believe) was my eMusic Pick of the Week when it came out. Read the review HERE, on Bird is the Worm.
If you enjoyed the breezy nature of this recording, you might want to check out my review of Quartetto Minimo‘s 2013 release Pomelö. It has a slightly different sound, but that same airy feel that made Ponto de Partida so successful. Read that review HERE.