Pedro Melo Alves' Omniae Ensemble

Label: Nischo, 2017

Lineup – José Soares: alto saxophone; Gileno Santana: trumpet; Xavi Sousa: trombone; Mané Fernandes: electric guitar; Zé Diogo Martins: piano; Filipe Louro: double bass; Pedro Melo Alves: drums. 

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Omniae Ensemble is a Porto-based, 7-piece debutant group led by Portuguese drummer José Pedro Alves, whose well-founded artistic statement is made by orderly congested strides and breathable organic textures. Their debut CD features three originals by Alves and another three by the late pianist Bernardo Sassetti.

Ubi”, the 22-minute overture of this Braxton-esque long opus, brings us vertiginous waves of intricate sounds accommodated as fractal soundscape collages. The group interaction is favorable in its most diverse circumstances, from exciting soloing sections to gripping textural passages, where the accompaniment assumes the form of drones or repetitive chord progressions. The work that surfaces from piano and synth guitar deserves a mention, and it all flows in an engaging hybridity between composed avant-jazz blissfulness and overdriven rock urgency.

Oscillating with acerbic tension and controlled drift, “Phelia” exalts the cinematic as it searches for dynamics through hushed repose, locomotive rhythmic progressions, and horn counterpoint. The post-bop incursions by pianist Zé Diogo Martins are highlights.

Sassetti’s “(In)Diferente” marks the great moment of the record with a patient introduction, vigorous pulses, and suspended sonic emanations. Amid the glancing encounters between light and darkness, one can find a consummate interdependency between classical piano movements and articulated saxophone lines drawn from modern jazz. The same idea prevails when the trombone runs against atmospheric guitar strokes.

With a looking-forward posture, “Onírea” finds a strange balance between the booming and the murmured. After the bass roams of Filipe Louro, the tune falls into a balladic mode to receive a fairytale-ish improvisation by trumpeter Gileno Santana.

After the powerful spasmodic reflex that launches “Reflexos, Movimento Circular” and some convulsive giddiness provoked by the collective, we can identify Sasseti's beautiful waltz. The strong classical feel veers momentarily to an odd pulse that better emphasizes Mané Fernandes' distorted guitar solo before the theme is brought back.

The album closes with “Da Noite”, another piece of Sasseti that deliberately embraces the shadowy and soothing. 

Omniae Ensemble, composed of invigorating practitioners of new music, sounds like a modern symphonic work imbued with overwhelming emotion and deep resonance. The Portuguese jazz is well represented here.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
01 - Ubi ► 03 - (In)Diferente ► 04 - Onírea