Rodrigo Amado - A History of Nothing

Label: Trost Records, 2018

Personnel - Rodrigo Amado: tenor saxophone; Joe McPhee: soprano saxophone, pocket trumpet; Kent Kessler: double bass; Chris Corsano: drums.

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Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, a mainstay of the European free jazz panorama, is recognized for blowing his tenor with logic and authority, frequently in trio and quartet settings. He was also a member of the adventurous Lisbon Improvisation Players group, with which he recorded three albums for the Clean Feed label.

A History of Nothing, his debut on the Austrian Trost Records, features five improv-centric tunes authored and sculpted by the same quartet that made This Is Our Language (Not Two Records, 2012) a reference in the genre. Namely, Joe McPhee on soprano saxophone and pocket trumpet, Kent Kessler on double bass, and Chris Corsano on drums. 

Legacies” opens the session with strong chamber intonations, driven by gentle bowed bass moves and occasional cymbal screeches. The midpoint marks a change with Kessler providing a bit more conduction through punctilious plucks, and Corsano getting increasingly active behind the drum kit while the horn section creates a free state of harmony.

The deliberative "A History of Nothing" starts with a cacophonous tug-of-war between saxophones, triggering responsive reactions from the rhythm section. It’s like a push-pull game of thrones where nobody wins, replete with raw, exhilarating collisions and powerful individual expressions. Bass and drums weave a supportive if impenetrable rhythmic net that stimulates Amado and McPhee to exhibit heftiness and intricacy in their explorative endeavors. At that moment, we can see the ensemble in full flight.

The mixture of mordant and airy sounds from pocket trumpet initiates the operations on “Wild Flower”, but McPhee soon switches to soprano sax, delivering racing phrases over the foundational tandem priorly established. Amado then chips in, employing discernible folk-ish lines with a rollicking grasp and striking timbre, evoking Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and sometimes Fred Anderson in his musical descriptions. It felt good hearing him digging something more melodic in contrast with the fierce rhythmic approach of his co-workers. McPhee joins again by the end, for a victorious, snappy final round of interactive play.

Establishing a strange communication, the quartet finishes this adventurous journey with “The Hidden Desert”, whose dark mood and sedative hypnotics take the listener to a brooding cinematic realm. However, I could not fail to mention the homage to McPhee on “Theory of Mind II (for Joe)”, marked as a CD-only track. The intense combination of mallet drumming and bass perambulations vary in intensity with Amado opting not to bring all his impetuosity in his first improvisatory incursion. He returns later with a turbulent foray, though.

Amado’s quartet is in peak form, exerting another biting album that comprehends both volcanic and ruminative sonic layers. Just let the freedom touch you while enjoying this finely calibrated commotion.

         Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks: 
02 - A History of Nothing ► 03 - Theory of Mind II (for Joe) ► 04 - Wild Flower