Blues by Lester
Mot mut, Motis mutis
Chica piscina II
All out there
What is this thing called love
You stepped out of Green Dolphin St
Blues by Lester
Jamboree, Barcelona 19th December 2013
Encarnació 2, Barcelona 28th July 2013
First, let’s solve the acronym… ISCCJMKMB stands for, “Ivo Sans convida Cesar Joaniquet, Masa Kamaguchi i Marcel·lí Bayer” which certainly sounds a little more egalitarian than the ‘Ivo Sans Quartet’ would.
This is the Convida ensemble’s second live disc and is drawn from two Barcelona live sets in 2013. By one of life’s endless odd coincidences, I was in the audience for the December gig at Jamboree and if I tell you that I still recall it fondly and that this recording took me right back there, you can probably guess how this review is going to go.
Right from the opening (and closing) Blues for Lester, there’s something both classic and distinctly exploratory about this album. The rhythms from Kamaguchi and Sans have an easy foot-tapping appeal on the surface (with more complicated treats for the ear lying just beneath), the horns produce accessible, hummable and memorable melodies, often in unison and in a mid-20th century mould and yet… neither the tunes nor the playing is remotely predictable. Moments of barely discernible dissonance, departures from traditional dynamics, occasional extended techniques, all contribute to a recording that is at once accessible listening for the jazz purist and completely satisfying to the more experimental listener. It’s a neat trick to pull off.
According to Sans, the previous recording, “Darrera Nit de Maig a l’Heliogàbal”, was a more impromptu performance; he wasn’t really looking for a jazz quartet but something just fell into place and the foursome continued playing together. That initial disc contained just three original tunes, contributed by Joaniquet and Bayer. This second recording (did I mention they’re working on a third?) has six, mostly from Sans himself. The two-horn frontline (boosted to three by Gagliardi’s tenor on the second set) allows a greater density and complexity of lead voice with alternating solos and interweaving melodies, evoking a sense of a much bigger band, and the compositions and arrangements take full advantage; as an example, try the three-way fun of You stepped out of Green Dolphin St.
For a highlight that exemplifies the individual sound of this line up, there’s the contrasting movements of Yoruba/Sancti Petri. The first part feels tribal, expressionistic, abstract, even incantatory, creating a sense of gently building tension – resolved in the second part with a pretty descending melody that is stated and stretched by Bayer and Joaniquet to soothing effect until the sudden stop leaves the listener hanging in mid-air.
Having seen both Sans and Bayer play under more freely improvisational circumstances, I know that they’re both used to travelling pretty ‘far out’. Likewise, I suspect, Kamaguchi and Joaniquet. Overall, what I hear here, is the judicious and delicate application of those improvising sensibilities to bring a subtly unique edge to a timeless jazz quartet sound that has its roots back in the 1960s. I’ve reached for the Heliogàbal album a few times over the last year, I suspect I’ll be reaching for “Yoruba” even more often.
Afterthought: the word “convida” works in a couple of ways. In Catalan, the straightforward meaning is “invites”, the same in Portuguese, I believe. But look at it through a more mainland Spanish lens and it could be viewed as “with life”, which is certainly true of the compositions and playing here. Then, to return to the idea of the invitation, that implies friendship, a social event, and above all, a sense of parity – no ‘hired guns’ here but rather honoured guests who’ve been invited by the host to a celebratory occasion. Nice.