A record label can have a special impact on a style, witness the Lisbon-based Clean Feed's developing relationship to free jazz. It's the label's specialty, largely as practiced in New York and environs, though with special attention to Portuguese musicians, sometimes in trans-Atlantic collaboration. The people at Clean Feed seem to be practicing an exalted selectivity about musicians and groupings that's resulting in some excellent recordings. These three recent CDs by tenor saxophonists present high levels of organization and committed invention, along with a rich humanity of sound and a shared capacity to surprise.
Alipio C Neto is a Brazilian, resident in Portugal. He has recorded in a couple of groups (IMI Kollektief and Wishful Thinking), but this is his debut as leader. Supported by trumpeter Herb Robertson (whose darting, varied lines act as a foil to Neto's substantial centrality), bassist Ken Filiano, drummer Michael T.A. Thompson and, on three of five tracks, tubaist Ben Stapp, Neto distinguishes himself as both player and composer, with an elegiac nobility of vision that is his defining characteristic. Track one first juxtaposes rapid drumming and improvised trumpet splatters against low tenor blasts; a later theme pitches rapid bass bowing against the horns' held tones. When Neto finally solos, he's a radical melodist, creating a continuum of abrasions and graces, building from great low blasts through sudden upper-range skitters and hollow-voiced mid-range lines. Like the first, each of Neto`s compositions contain multiple themes that are welded together by the ensemble, often creating a feeling suspended between through-composition and collective improvisation. Clearly every player here is engaged by Neto's intensity of purpose, and the results sound like a working band.
By Stuart Broomer