All sorts of jazz, free jazz and improv. Never for money, always for love.
Austin, Texas, though considered by some to be the Live Music Capital of the World, it isn’t exactly a hotbed for jazz and improvised music. So a May 2009 performance by this international quartet featuring members from Lisbon, Portugal and Dallas, Texas at the city’s Salvage Vanguard Theatre came as quite a pleasant surprise. Representing the Iberian Peninsula are guitarist Luís Lopes and tenorman Rodrigo Amado, while the sibling rhythm section of bassist Aaron and drummer Stefan González (the progeny of Dallas-based trumpeter-composer Dennis González and 2/3 of Yells at Eels) make up the unit’s other half. When performing, Lopes stands or crouches, delicately smudging phrases and creating small, haranguing cells in a mixture of spattered flecks and feedback/distortion. His tone is rather thin, and he draws from a vocabulary aware of Ray Russell, Stefan Jaworzyn and Rudolph Grey, except quite absent much of their pyrotechnics and rather skewed toward choppy condensation.
Much of what made the group’s music attractive on their Clean Feed debut is present on Electricity, the follow-up on French label Ayler Records. Whereas the previous disc was made up solely of Lopes’ compositions (and therefore it seemed like Humanization 4tet was predominantly his project), Electricity also sports excellent tunes by Amado and Aaron González on a pretty equal numeric footing with the guitarist’s. Amado is a consummate tenor saxophonist, albeit one who still isn’t well-known on the international stage. One could easily make the comparison of Archie Shepp drawn through Ken Vandermark, but Amado’s tone is softer and his phrasing far less blustery, his peals wrapped in care and delicacy. The González brothers are an extraordinarily tight, telepathic rhythm section and maintain pliant, chattering grooves around wiry, staccato tenor/guitar improvisations and funereal lines. The bassist penned the opening “Dehumanization Blues,” fierce downstrokes leading into a flinty update on crime-jazz and husky, spiky motifs from tenor and guitar. Collective improvisation ensues after the jaunty, darting head of “Jungle Gymnastics,” but in this four-minute piece, the group’s empathy and constantly-directed comment (not to mention rhythmic acuity) maintain vital interest. “Procurei-te Na Noite” has a boppish bounce, distantly-hanging notes from Lopes’ guitar sliding the tune deliciously, obstinately out of tempo. The Humanization 4tet present unruly but accessible inside-outside jazz, very much worth further investigation.
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