Hugo Carvalhais – Nebulosa (CF 201)
Fans of American saxophonist Tim Berne are often inclined to seek out his latest recordings. Two 2010 sessions finds him as a sideman—bassist Michael Formanek’s The Rub And The Spare Change (ECM), and this superb discovery from another bassist, Hugo Carvalhais.
The Portuguese bassist composed all the music, played by Berne and fellow countrymen Gabriel Pinto (piano) and Mário Costa (drums). With Berne and his distinctive alto, it might be assumed that the focus would shift towards the Portuguese’s American guest, but that would be a mistake. The very fluid compositions and flexible, ever-shifting music of this talented trio is, indeed, the highlight of Nebulosa.
Nebulosa dabbles in the jazz tradition, except the conventions exercised are those of an experimenting Herbie Hancock or early Weather Report. Like Hancock and Joe Zawinul, Pinto’s acoustic piano is supplemented by Synthesizer, while Carvalhais also dabbles with some electronics. Also, similar to Berne’s Hard Cell and Science Friction bands, this is not fusion, but an amalgamation of electronics with tradition.
The proof is in tracks like “Nebulosa Part V,” a ruminating jazz piano trio piece, sans Berne, anchored by a slow bass groove that allows the piano and drums to test out different energy systems, all supplemented by some subtle synthesizer subtext of pings and echoes—none of which detract from the piece.
This acoustic use of electronics makes the players the focal point. The distinctive sound of Berne’s alto, makes it an even better mixture. His pointed jabs, stabs and note thrusts correspond well, and add enough pigment to finish Carvalhais’ pieces.