Bernardo Sassetti – Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (CF 070)
is unusual stuff even for the growing and open-eared Clean Feed label. Composed by pianist Bernardo Sassetti, it is a concept CD with a complex storyline that is fully explained (in Portuguese) in the CD booklet with a summarized synopsis in English so I coudn’t follow every detail of the narrative. Basically, though, it’s a whimsical story about a factory manager who one day, with the help of an inventor and a witch, decides to look for a magical Domain of Music, supposedly some kind of harmonious utopia. They eventually get there but find that the place is not the hoped for paradise. The music for this story is out of the Evans-Brookmeyer-Schneider lineage of impressionistic orchestral subtlety and is performed by a seven-piece Jazz group, a woodwind quintet, a saxophone quartet and a percussion ensemble. There is a heavy reliance on percussion and suspended phrases that brings Edgard Varese to mind while Satie and Zappa also lurk somewhere in the mix. There are plenty of nice details to focus on, like the dark tympani and marimba-powered sweep of “Ernesto,” the dancing flute melody of “Dona Antonia” and the inventive combination of steel drums and piano on the melancholy “Si te contara.” Monk’s “Evidence” even turns up in the middle of all this and gets delightfully worked over by the percussionists. This is one of those records on which literally, you hear new things every time you listen to it. There is so much going on you need several listens to pick up most of it. This work is sad, funny, dramatic, odd and joyful all at different times, a huge undertaking that Clean Feed should be proud to have in this catalogue.