Luís Lopes' Humanization 4tet - Live in Madison

Ken Waxman, JazzWord

Originally a double-release review of "Live in Madison" and Rodrigo Amado's "The Flame Alphabet"

Two hard and heady sessions show off the toughness and adaptability of Portuguese improvisers – especially tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado present on both CDs; and guitarist Luís Lopes featured on one. At the same time while both disks were recorded only six weeks apart, and are equally strikingly brawny, each provides an individual definition of go-for-broke improvisation.


There’s an ample supply of harshness and zealousness on the other, live CD. The concentrated power surge from the rhythm section, coupled with the lick distorting lead-guitar work encourages the saxophonist to play up the cruder side of his improvisations. Rugged honks and tongue gymnastics replace Amado’s more cerebral interpretations, investing the session with a punk-like callousness.

Crudeness and callousness pump up the excitement level along with the volume; and while none of the six tracks can be said to swing, they certainly gallop fiercely. Fully fitting the moment, although writing duties are divided and the majority of tunes come from the guitarist compositions by Amada and Aaron González are hewn from the same rock …or Rock.

Lopes’ pieces such as “Jungle Gymnastics” and “Long March For Frida Kahlo” contain enough raucous power that electricity could have been switched off throughout Madison that night, More tactfully, the guitarist’s staccato story-telling licks on the latter and the parallel string pushes and reed tongue inflection on the former confirm that complex ideas are just beneath the showy surface.

As a reversal from Rock music conventions, it’s the bassist and drummer who maintain the moderato pace on the latte piece; and it’s Stefan González’s comprehensive drum break which brings the narrative back to its melodic head on the latter tune. Furthermore, his brother’s “Dehumanization Blues” offers the most all-embracing definition of this music on the disc. Maintaining equilibrium among different tropes, the piece manages to balance a linear theme that pushes forward like a police dogs straining at the leash with varied solo responses. Besides the saxophonist’s improvisations that encompass wild and nasty tongue stops and slurs, are intimations of hard-boiled detective theme music. Again the guitarist and reedist combine staccato dissonance to stimulate the excitement level. Concluding with blistering ripostes at the zenith of each horn man’s respective range, it’s up to the drummer to moderate the attack into a satisfying, all encompassing conclusion.

Overall with these discs Amado confirms his skill as both reed-biting punk jazzer and spiky, more cerebral improviser. Personal preferences will determine which sort of Portuguese confection the listener prefers.