John Gunther (ts), Ricardo Pinheiro (g), Massimo Cavalli (b), Bruno Pedroso (d), Mike Del Ferro (p)
Bar code: 8427328435765
5 STARS * Review Rating
"I had the pleasure of reviewing Ricardo Pinheiro’s Triplicity album that he made with Massimo Cavalli and Eric Ineke in 2017. What I didn’t know then was that five months earlier he and Cavalli had laid down tracks for East & West with Bruno Pedroso on drums and the American John Gunther on tenor sax. Amsterdam pianist Mike del Ferro guested on five of the eight tracks.
This is New West Quartet’s debut album. Six numbers are original compositions with Pinheiro, Cavalli and Gunther contributing two apiece. The other two are innovative rearrangements of Monk’s Bye-Ya and Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice.
Bye-Ya is re-assembled with a Latin dance feel and an unusual piano interpretation from Del Farro. The song New West has intricate interplay between sax and guitar and is propelled neatly by Cavalli’s bass work and Pedroso’s deft drumming. With hints of John Scofield in his playing, Pinheiro reveals flavours of the softly amplified interstellar sound that was so riveting in Triplicity.
Pinheiro’s composition Pó Dos Días is a lovely ballad with lyrical sax supplying the initial melody then delicately echoed by guitar. Soft, tinkling piano fades out the song at the close. I was so intrigued by the number I asked Pinheiro about its meaning and he explained that the title is Portuguese for “dust of the days” – the song is about how the days go by and disappear as dust. It’s superb.
Sax and guitar merge uncannily on Boulder Blues to the extent that they begin to sound as one. Poka Blues has crisp military style drum work and intricate bass lines. Here, the guitar quietly asserts prominence during the sax and piano solos and then majestically takes over at five minutes in. Don’t Forget Ornette has marked increases in tempo and dexterous pizzicato bass soloing. The familiar strains of Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice are heard for only 30 seconds and then the song is deconstructed with clever collaborative interplay before nicely coming together again for the last 45. The reflective Que Falta is a slow tempo ballad with exquisite bass and piano duetting.
This is an invigorating, absorbing and contemporary take on straightahead jazz. All the artists are at the top of their game and every track is jam-packed with interest."
Brian Payne (August 16, 2019)
"Tem um século a história das colaborações transatlânticas entre músicos de jazz. O New West Quartet é mais uma etapa desse longo “continuum”, ao reunir dois músicos portugueses – o guitarrista Ricardo Pinheiro e o baterista Bruno Pedroso –, um italiano já aportuguesado, o contrabaixista Massimo Cavalli, e um norte-americano, o multi-instrumentista John Gunther. As origens do quarteto remontam a 2013, quando Gunther e Pinheiro se cruzaram na Dinamarca, no âmbito das atividades da International Association of Schools of Jazz. As responsabilidades académicas são, aliás, centrais no percurso de ambos: o primeiro é diretor do Departamento de Jazz da Universidade do Colorado e o segundo o coordenador da linha de investigação em Estudos de Jazz do Instituto de Etnomusicologia da Universidade Nova de Lisboa e do Mestrado em Música da Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa.
Enquanto músico e compositor, John Gunther é um nome insuficientemente reconhecido na cena internacional, não obstante exibir uma discografia com diversos pontos de interesse, em especial as gravações para a CIMP desde meados da década de 1990. O seu som melódico e direto tem-lhe permitido abordar um amplo espectro jazzístico, desde o vincadamente filiado no “mainstream” até contextos mais livres. Ricardo Pinheiro tem trabalho relevante enquanto líder das suas próprias formações e como membro de outros projetos, vertido em vários discos recomendáveis (há que não perder de vista, também, a sua produção bibliográfica). Contrabaixista seguro e assertivo, Cavalli tem deixado marca nos seus grupos e em colaborações várias, a que se junta ainda uma importante atividade docente. Pedroso é, como sempre, um sólido garante de invenção e imprevisibilidade rítmicas. Esse primeiro encontro frutificou quando, em 2015, tocaram juntos no Hot Clube e, dois anos depois, gravaram este “East & West”, acabado de sair com chancela da catalã Fresh Sound New Talent.
O jazz é, bem o sabemos, uma música em que se operacionaliza uma circularidade de recursos na qual produtos acabados se transformam em nova matéria-prima pronta a ser retrabalhada. Claramente balizada pelo cânone, a música que se escuta em “East & West”, indagando a tradição a partir de dentro, possui graus de liberdade suficientes para lhe conferir uma dose de risco que a eleva a um patamar superior. A repartição da autoria das peças é equitativa: Gunther, Pinheiro e Cavalli contribuem com duas cada, às quais acrescem as leituras de dois temas que se tornaram “standards”.
Logo a abrir, uma versão de “Bye-Ya”, de Thelonious Monk, peça originalmente incluída em “Monk’s Dream” (o seu primeiro disco para a Columbia), que aqui é alvo de exploração aberta dos seus espaços melódico e harmónico, de onde emanam expressivos diálogos, como os que se estabelecem entre guitarra e saxofone. Nota ainda para a intervenção do pianista Mike Del Ferro (que o Pinheiro conheceu na África do Sul em 2014), cuja prestação é decisiva em vários momentos. A outra versão, porventura mais estimulante, é de “Moment’s Notice” (peça que Coltrane jamais regravaria após “Blue Train”), abordada de forma pouco convencional, através da utilização de subdivisões rítmicas diferentes.
Avultam ainda o tema do saxofonista que nomeia o quarteto – e que parece adquirir estatuto de centro de gravidade do disco –, com o seu “groove” escorreito, e “Pó dos Dias”, uma balada delicada da autoria do guitarrista que prima pela elegante construção melódica e pelos quase dois minutos finais, com Del Ferro em estado de graça. Em “Don’t Forget Ornette” (de Cavalli), os níveis de interação estão potenciados ao máximo, e “Poka Blues” (de Pinheiro), na sua estrutura clássica, conta com um arranjo inusual. “East & West” é um disco marcado pela sobriedade e pela competência, que cumpre os seus propósitos com distinção."
Antonio Branco (June 18, 2019)
"Guitarist Ricardo Pineiro and bassist Massimo Cavalli’s work was not “new” to me as I previously reviewed the Triplicity CD they made with drummer Eric Ineke on these pages. I enjoyed the music on this recording and was very impressed with Ricardo and Massimo’s musicianship -Eric, of course, being a Jazz Master is always impressive whenever he plays.
So when Ricardo reached out with a preview copy of his latest CD - East & West - The New West Quartet - I decided to dig a little deeper into the background of the musicians on this recording, to try and understand more about each of the players and how they became Jazz musicians.
The latter was especially intriguing to me because Jazz is not the primary choice of most of today’s young musicians.
What I found as an almost universal element in each of their backgrounds was how studied they were in terms of their training and how each continues to be involved with Jazz in academic circles.
A common thread for all of these players is attendance at a university and/or conservatory and then upon graduation to continue at an academic institution in some sort of full or part time teaching capacity.
I have listed the curriculum vitae for each of the band members below and you can peruse them at your leisure to become better acquainted with their distinguished credentials.
The music on East & West - The New West Quartet has been released on the Fresh Sound New Talent label (FSNT-576) and you can find track samplings and order information via this link to Fresh Sound.
Of the eight tracks, the familiar melodies of Monk’s Bye-Ya and Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice will give you a chance to set your ears on The New West Quartet’s style.
The remaining six tracks are originals and divided evenly at two apiece between Gunther, Pinheiro and Cavalli.
Throughout the music on this recording Pinheiro uses guitar amplification as a unifying factor and as a dominant sonority.
In this regard, Pinheiro use of multiple and different amplification samples reflects the influence of Metheny, Frisell and Scofield, Abercrombie, McLaughlin, and other Jazz-Rock fusion guitar artists.
But when John Gunther’s tenor sax is added to the mix, to my ears, the sound of The New West Quartet harkens back to the recordings that guitarist John Scofield made for Blue Note in the early 1990s which featured Joe Lovano on tenor sax [or, in one instance, Eddie Harris] and bassists Dennis Irwin, Marc Johnson, and Charlie Haden and drummers Bill Stewart, Jack DeJohnette, Joey Baron and Idris Muhammad (nee Leo Morris).
The Scofield albums in question are Groove Elation, What We Do, Grace Under Pressure, Meant to Be and Time On My Hands.
In-the-pocket grooving set against New Orleans, second line street beats [think syncopated marching band cadences], the latter especially inspired by the drumming of Idris Muhammad are a major element on all these Scofield albums and they are very much apparent in Gunther’s The New West and Pinheiro’s Polka Blues courtesy of the adept drumming of Bruno Pedroso. Pedroso’s crisp snare drum cuts through with accents when necessary to push the music along, but at the same time, his beautifully “harmonic” cymbals blend nicely with the other instruments adding a nice element of overtones to the music.
As the title implies Don’t Forget Ornette, Cavalli’s tribute to the scion of Free Jazz - Ornette Coleman - provides for open and spontaneous improvisation as the keynote to this uptempo excursion into the extemporaneous.
Pó dos días, a lovely ballad by Pinheiro sounds like something sculpted from a movie theme by Ennio Morricone whose music has an almost ethereal quality to it. It is my favorite track on the CD and I have incorporated it into a video that features the artwork of the late Peter Campbell which you will find at the conclusion of this posting.
It’s nice to hear today’s generation improvising on The Blues and East & West - The New West Quartet includes two forays into this 12-bar structure: the aforementioned Polka Blues by Pinheiro and Cavalli’s Boulder Blues which is a blowing showcase for the bassist who gets a big booming bass sound reminiscent of Ray Brown’s powerful work in the lower register of the instrument.
On Monk’s Bye-Ya and Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice with their strong associations with Charlie Rouse and John Coltrane, Gunther has his work cut out for him in establishing his own identity on these two well-served vehicles for tenor saxophone. With his angular approach to soloing, John does an admirable job of making each of these pieces his own and Bye-Ya introduces the refreshingly different piano work of guest artist Mike Del Ferro. Mike’s is a two-handed piano player and he employs this skill to bring a wide range of octaves into play during his solos. His improvisations are full of surprises.
Pinheiro’s sparkling and probing guitar work is “the glue” that holds everything together on this recording and gives the music a dominant sonority. Whether comping chords, playing rhythmic phrases or soloing, the overall texture on this album is created by the manner in which Ricardo weaves his amplified guitar throughout the eight tunes that comprise it.
It is a testimony to his grace and sensitivity as an artist that Ricardo pulls it off without being overbearing as far as the other instruments are concerned.
And speaking of “other” instruments, Gunther, Cavalli, Pedroso and Del Ferro are all first-rate players about whom I’m sure we’ll hear more from in the future.
Steve Cerra (June 16, 2019)