Point of Departure review by Art Lange

Jorge Lima Barreto – Zul Zelub (CF 111)
For over two decades the Portuguese pianist Barreto has employed free improv, electroacoustic settings, multimedia constructs, theatrical and video installations to escape conventional performance practice as one-half of the duo Telectu with guitarist/electronicist Victor Rua. This aesthetic carries over into what is ostensibly a solo piano recital (divided between two extended live 2005 improvisations), albeit enhanced by short-wave radio and ambient recordings from João Marques Carrilho. Metaphorically, the piano represents real-time, internal space (the body of the piano and the mind of the pianist), while Carrilho’s contribution symbolizes the indeterminate external environment it inhabits. In “Zul,” Barreto’s grand gestures are drawn from the extremes of piano repertoire, slipping in and out of tonal references – with chord clusters and repeated phrases suggesting Prokofiev or, in more lyrical passages, Rachmaninoff, and the alternately hammered and feathery dynamics of a Schlippenbach – as radio waves elicit fugitive echoing voices and whistling timbres. Atop a chorus of birds, insects, and possibly amphibians in “Zelub,” the piano follows a compact, thematic, linear progression interrupted only by rumbling bass excursions and inside-the-piano metallic clatter. The self-imposed extramusical barriers notwithstanding, it’s Barreto’s spontaneous, large-scale compositional coherency that impresses most.

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