Monday, June 19, 2017

Staub Quartet, House Full of Colors

Put together a sort of "string quartet" of Portuguese free jazz/new improvised music stars Miguel Mira on cello, Carlos "Zingaro" on violin, Hernani Faustino on bass and Marcelo dos Reis on acoustic and prepared guitar, and you get the Staub Quartet. Their debut CD House Full of Colors (JACC Records 33) is so much more than a chance meeting that you sit up and take notice from the first notes onward.

Those who know these four and their freely inventive prowess should not be surprised. Though I am not in the position to keep score, they have all played together in various combinations and surely belong together. There is nothing casual about these improvisers--everything I've heard of them has a huge sense of purpose and an advanced open form seriousness that often enough verges on the sublime. So I naturally had lots of expectations when I put this CD on my player.

To say I was not disappointed is to say that all the four can be inventively is very much present here. The whole is the greater for the Staub Quartet formation. Each plays a role and as you listen to the six segments you revel in how the colors and textures of the instruments in the hands of these masters come to create totalities that are consistently near breathtaking and sometimes well beyond that.

There often enough is a kind of gestural complementarity between bass and cello, for reasons that have to do with their potential as rhythm section choices in more conventional jazz, but then both Mira and Faustino can of course function as horns and convincingly so. Or of course both are supreme colorists and find a place when there are two-, three-, or four-way blends of that kind of thing. Make no mistake however, this music channels historic jazz only in the most convoluted and indirect ways. There is a kind of "soul" to it all, but a different kind. And the lining is not naked linearity but collectively simultaneous. So does it sound like Armstrong and Oliver? Well, no, not really! So do not expect that. Do expect the outer fringes of avant jazz and new music to have some relation to what you hear.

Zingaro is a supreme solo line-weaver on violin but he can and does also blend his special ways into the whole. Marcelo transforms his guitar sound (whether prepared or otherwise) into the totality so much so that you have to remind yourself that the fourth line is a guitar line. Sometimes he becomes such a shape-changer that he transcends his instrument to become a pure aural force in the complex mix. Listen once through just for him and you'll be surprised and enlightened as to what he comes up with.

All four of course form the matrix that makes all the difference on this album. Nobody is the "star;" the various organic growths they nurture in the six segments have a natural yet uncannily "forward" quality that you must hear with focused intent, to expose yourself repeatedly and gradually to get the full appreciation this album demands and deserves.

It is one of the best outings of all four and it is one of the best "fours" in avant music outings today.

You want to know what is new and important ion free improv? This is one for sure! Excellent!

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