Andre Carvalho - The Garden of Earthly Delights

Label: Outside in Music, 2019

Personnel - Jeremy Powell: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Eitan Gofman: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Oskar Stenmark: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andre Matos: guitar; Andre Carvalho: double bass; Rodrigo Recabarren: drums, percussion.

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After two well-succeeded albums released in his native country, Portuguese bassist/composer Andre Carvalho raises the bar with a new studio album made in New York, the city he has been living since 2014. Eleven new compositions/movements constitute the suite inspired by Bosch’s famous triptych oil painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, whose enigmatic intentions and visual awe are transported to the music. Carvalho convened the same creative sextet he has been gigging with for a while now. The three-horn frontline composed of trumpeter Oskar Stenmark and saxophonists Jeremy Powell and Eitan Gofman is on the same wavelength of the adaptable rhythm section that affiliates guitarist Andre Matos and drummer Rodrigo Recabarren to the bandleader.

The album’s opener, “Prelude”, feels quite cinematic on the point of probing a mystifying scenario. Unyielding bow work, cautious guitar, and ponderous unison lines coalesce into a lethargic pace well founded on a 6/4 time signature. Bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, and trumpet infuse just the right amount of exoticism and freedom in this extraordinary invitation that leads to the luxurious “The Fool of Venus”, which hooks up a vivid guitar ostinato turned into groove by the bassist. The horn section contributes both aligned and crisscrossed lines within a sumptuous mix of Eastern and Western musical confluences that, on occasion, brings to mind the quintet of Dave Holland. Stenmark is the featured soloist on this tune, demonstrating versatility and range.

Recabarren’s resourceful drumming comes to prominence on “The Fountain”, where the gentle flute melodies contrast with the dizzy-spells caused by Matos’ effects-drenched guitar. Also immersed in a cool poise, “Dracaena Draco” smoothly transits from a collective passage to a 2-minute bass narration.

Like the painting that inspired it, the music is rich in detail and contrast. Take, for example, the modern flair and playfulness initially offered on “Of Mermaids and Mermen”, and then the ruptures and suspensions that follow them. The polyphonic instrumentation slowly takes us to Gofman’s saxophone supplications, accompanied by sparse guitar liquidity and unabashed drumming, and later adorned with horn fills. Thereupon, the tension is brought down considerably with “Cherries, Brambles and Strawberries”, which follows a more traditional song format, softened by sax-guitar melodicism and Recabarren’s propelling brushwork. After a well-developed story told by Powell, Matos brings his guitar forward with a solo bathed in an equipoised solution of bluesy rock and rustic folk jazz.

Showcasing distortion-laden sounds, the guitarist is also in evidence on energetic rock pieces such as “Evil Parade”, a mixed-meter composition that couples 3/4 and 5/4 time signatures while having trumpet and tenor alternating bars, and “The Forlorn Mill”, a hard rock-meets-jazz excursion with delightfully accented phrases. With the horns on the loose and the rhythm section mutating the substructure without breaking it, this sounds very avant-gardish.

Knowing exactly what he wants, Carvalho reveals a strong identity as a composer. His decisiveness is on display throughout a work that brims with a fresh contemporary spin.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Prelude ► 08 - Evil Parade ► 10 - The Forlorn Mill