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Mario Laginha / Julian Arguelles / Helge Andreas Norbakken - Setembro Rating: 4 out of 5 A frequently beautiful album that fulfils its goals superbly. The quality of the writing, and of the playing, is exceptional throughout

Mario Laginha / Julian Arguelles / Helge Andreas Norbakken

“Setembro”

(Edition Records EDN 1099)

Although jointly credited this session is essentially led by the Portuguese pianist and composer Mario Laginha. Eight of the album’s ten tracks are written by him with just two coming from the pen of British saxophonist Julian Arguelles. This international trio is completed by Norwegian drummer and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken.

I first became aware of Laginha’s playing in the late 1990s when he was a member of an octet led by Arguelles that recorded the marvellous album “Skull View” (1997) and its equally worthy follow up “Escapade” (1999). I remember seeing the octet at Cheltenham Jazz Festival around the time of “Skull View” and being highly impressed with Laginha’s contribution. Since those heady days he’s rather dropped off the radar as far as British listeners are concerned but I have no doubt that he’s continued to produce good work in the meantime with a number of solo albums to his credit plus a long running collaboration with vocalist Maria Joao.

For UK audiences Arguelles is much more of a known quantity, having first emerged as a member of Loose Tubes before embarking on a lengthy and impressive solo career that has produced a series of excellent albums in a variety of formats and contexts in conjunction with musicians from the UK, Europe and the US.
A prolific composer and arranger and a superb soloist Arguelles has produced an impressive body of work (thirteen solo albums to date) and ranks as one of the most significant jazz musicians the UK has produced. He’s an artist with a truly international reputation and the quality of his work is consistently excellent, without exception all of Arguelles’ recordings as a leader are well worthy of investigation.  He’s also a prolific collaborator and sideman who enriches any musical situation in which he appears.

Meanwhile Norbakken has worked extensively in his native Norway and also internationally and has recorded frequently across a variety of musical genres. Among those with whom he has collaborated are vocalists Mari Boine and Kari Bremnes, pianist Jon Balke, trumpeter Jon Hassell and tuba player Daniel Herskedal. He has also appeared frequently on albums by Laginha and Maria Joao.

As far as I’m aware this is the first time the trio have worked together but their shared links ensure that this is a well balanced unit that is more than capable of doing justice to the composing talents of Laginha and Arguelles. Released in October 2017 the album title “Setembro” is intended to reflect the gentle warmth of late summer in Laginha’s native Portugal and on the whole it succeeds brilliantly.

There’s a beautifully relaxed quality about Laginha’s opener “Maos na Parede”, a gloriously melodic piece that begins with a languid dialogue between the composer’s piano and Arguelles’ pure toned saxophone as Norbakken adds the gentlest and subtlest of percussion shadings. However just as the listener has been lulled into a sense of false security the piece bursts into life as a kind of folk dance with the darting melodic phrases of the piano and saxophone underpinned by the rapid bustle of Norbakken’s hand drumming.

“Fisicamente” (the title translating as “Physical”) continues the lively mood established by the second part of the opener with Arguelles mercurial soprano sax combining well with Laginha’s quick fire piano phrases and the neatly energetic percussion, again much of it played with bare hands, from Norbakken. Laginha’s piano solo is slightly more reflective but overall the mood of this piece is bright and uplifting with Arguelles sinuous soprano subsequently returning to joyous focus.

Unaccompanied piano introduces “O Primeira Dia” which sees the emphasis returning to a wistful lyricism with Arguelles on warm toned tenor and with Norbakken providing exquisitely detailed percussion commentary.

The music segues almost imperceptibly into “Serralves”, which temporarily darkens the mood with its atmospheric introduction before opening out into something more melodic with Arguelles’ tenor still warm and approachable. Norbakken’s insistent percussive patterns subsequently steer the music into darker waters once more with Arguelles adopting a harsher sound before the piece finally resolves itself in more straightforwardly melodic fashion.

A lengthy passage of lyrical solo piano introduces “Perto de Alguem” with the composer eventually joined by Norbakken whose delicately detailed percussion engages in brief dialogue before the entry of Arguelles’ melodic, gently keening soprano. The saxophonist is in peerless form, his playing seemingly effortless.

“Coisas de Terra” initially marks a return to the vigorous folk dance inspired approach of the first two pieces with the three musicians exuding a graceful vitality in the vivacious opening exchanges with their rapid fire sax and piano motifs and bustling percussion. A more reflective central section features Arguelles’ soprano probing above Laginha’s ostinato piano figures and Norbakken’s terse cymbal commentary. Percussion and saxophone subsequently fade away and Laginha begins an extended solo piano exploration, that waxes and wanes in terms of intensity before his colleagues return to finish the piece in the frenetic manner in which it began. At over eight and a half minutes in length this is the most substantial track on the album in terms of duration and it represents a multi-faceted piece of writing that is just brimming with ideas. In this sense it’s arguably the centre-piece of the album as a whole.

Next we hear two back to back compositions from Arguelles. Both “Hugger Mugger” and “Yada Yada” are drawn from the repertoire of the saxophonist’s working group Tetra, a quartet featuring the leader alongside three younger musicians, pianist Kit Downes, bassist Sam Lasserson and drummer James Maddren.

The two pieces appear together on the “Tetra” album and are segued again here, despite sounding very different in this context. “Hugger Mugger” begins with a passage of unaccompanied piano with Laginha subsequently joined by the mellifluous sound of Arguelles’ soprano and later the delicate nuances of Norbakken’s percussion. The tone is wistful, almost melancholic but the mood changes as Norbakken establishes a more conventional groove and Arguelles makes the switch to tenor, soloing on the larger horn as the music acquires a gently brooding intensity. There’s a folk like quality about the melody that some reviewers have compared to Jan Garbarek’s work with Keith Jarrett’s European quartet.

The album concludes with two pieces written by Laginha, the first of these being the haunting “Horn Please” with its long, plaintive saxophone melody lines underscored by slowly rolling piano figures and the atmospheric rustle of Norbakken’s percussion.

Finally we hear the graceful “Lugar Bem Situado”, which exhibits similar qualities but also embodies an almost anthemic lyricism.

“Setembro” is a frequently beautiful album that fulfils its goals superbly. The quality of the writing, and of the playing, is exceptional throughout with producers Laginha and Nelson Carvalho capturing every nuance of this delicately detailed music.

There are probably some that would dismiss “Setembro” as chamber jazz but the music, for all its beauty, is far from soporific and demands considerable attention from the listener if its full subtlety, richness and quality is to be appreciated. The writing, from both Laginha and Arguelles is multi-faceted and full of interesting ideas that help to keep the listener engaged.

Laginha and Arguelles are particularly well suited as a duo and their compatibility is sometimes reminiscent of the rapport that Arguelles enjoyed with the late, great John Taylor. But Norbakken’s contribution should not be overlooked. His percussion adds detail, nuance and propulsion, ensuring that this should be considered as a fully collaborative trio recording. Despite being relatively understated the Norwegian’s playing is colourful and inventive throughout, his musicality and intelligence adding so much to the music, yet never imposing unduly.

The trio of Laginha, Arguelles and Norbakken toured the UK in October 2017 but with the majority of the gigs taking place in London or the North of England I was unable to get an opportunity to see them.  Given the positive response given to “Setembro” let’s hope Edition can tempt the trio back to the UK again some time in 2018.

Setembro

Mario Laginha / Julian Arguelles / Helge Andreas Norbakken

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Setembro

A frequently beautiful album that fulfils its goals superbly. The quality of the writing, and of the playing, is exceptional throughout

Mario Laginha / Julian Arguelles / Helge Andreas Norbakken

“Setembro”

(Edition Records EDN 1099)

Although jointly credited this session is essentially led by the Portuguese pianist and composer Mario Laginha. Eight of the album’s ten tracks are written by him with just two coming from the pen of British saxophonist Julian Arguelles. This international trio is completed by Norwegian drummer and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken.

I first became aware of Laginha’s playing in the late 1990s when he was a member of an octet led by Arguelles that recorded the marvellous album “Skull View” (1997) and its equally worthy follow up “Escapade” (1999). I remember seeing the octet at Cheltenham Jazz Festival around the time of “Skull View” and being highly impressed with Laginha’s contribution. Since those heady days he’s rather dropped off the radar as far as British listeners are concerned but I have no doubt that he’s continued to produce good work in the meantime with a number of solo albums to his credit plus a long running collaboration with vocalist Maria Joao.

For UK audiences Arguelles is much more of a known quantity, having first emerged as a member of Loose Tubes before embarking on a lengthy and impressive solo career that has produced a series of excellent albums in a variety of formats and contexts in conjunction with musicians from the UK, Europe and the US.
A prolific composer and arranger and a superb soloist Arguelles has produced an impressive body of work (thirteen solo albums to date) and ranks as one of the most significant jazz musicians the UK has produced. He’s an artist with a truly international reputation and the quality of his work is consistently excellent, without exception all of Arguelles’ recordings as a leader are well worthy of investigation.  He’s also a prolific collaborator and sideman who enriches any musical situation in which he appears.

Meanwhile Norbakken has worked extensively in his native Norway and also internationally and has recorded frequently across a variety of musical genres. Among those with whom he has collaborated are vocalists Mari Boine and Kari Bremnes, pianist Jon Balke, trumpeter Jon Hassell and tuba player Daniel Herskedal. He has also appeared frequently on albums by Laginha and Maria Joao.

As far as I’m aware this is the first time the trio have worked together but their shared links ensure that this is a well balanced unit that is more than capable of doing justice to the composing talents of Laginha and Arguelles. Released in October 2017 the album title “Setembro” is intended to reflect the gentle warmth of late summer in Laginha’s native Portugal and on the whole it succeeds brilliantly.

There’s a beautifully relaxed quality about Laginha’s opener “Maos na Parede”, a gloriously melodic piece that begins with a languid dialogue between the composer’s piano and Arguelles’ pure toned saxophone as Norbakken adds the gentlest and subtlest of percussion shadings. However just as the listener has been lulled into a sense of false security the piece bursts into life as a kind of folk dance with the darting melodic phrases of the piano and saxophone underpinned by the rapid bustle of Norbakken’s hand drumming.

“Fisicamente” (the title translating as “Physical”) continues the lively mood established by the second part of the opener with Arguelles mercurial soprano sax combining well with Laginha’s quick fire piano phrases and the neatly energetic percussion, again much of it played with bare hands, from Norbakken. Laginha’s piano solo is slightly more reflective but overall the mood of this piece is bright and uplifting with Arguelles sinuous soprano subsequently returning to joyous focus.

Unaccompanied piano introduces “O Primeira Dia” which sees the emphasis returning to a wistful lyricism with Arguelles on warm toned tenor and with Norbakken providing exquisitely detailed percussion commentary.

The music segues almost imperceptibly into “Serralves”, which temporarily darkens the mood with its atmospheric introduction before opening out into something more melodic with Arguelles’ tenor still warm and approachable. Norbakken’s insistent percussive patterns subsequently steer the music into darker waters once more with Arguelles adopting a harsher sound before the piece finally resolves itself in more straightforwardly melodic fashion.

A lengthy passage of lyrical solo piano introduces “Perto de Alguem” with the composer eventually joined by Norbakken whose delicately detailed percussion engages in brief dialogue before the entry of Arguelles’ melodic, gently keening soprano. The saxophonist is in peerless form, his playing seemingly effortless.

“Coisas de Terra” initially marks a return to the vigorous folk dance inspired approach of the first two pieces with the three musicians exuding a graceful vitality in the vivacious opening exchanges with their rapid fire sax and piano motifs and bustling percussion. A more reflective central section features Arguelles’ soprano probing above Laginha’s ostinato piano figures and Norbakken’s terse cymbal commentary. Percussion and saxophone subsequently fade away and Laginha begins an extended solo piano exploration, that waxes and wanes in terms of intensity before his colleagues return to finish the piece in the frenetic manner in which it began. At over eight and a half minutes in length this is the most substantial track on the album in terms of duration and it represents a multi-faceted piece of writing that is just brimming with ideas. In this sense it’s arguably the centre-piece of the album as a whole.

Next we hear two back to back compositions from Arguelles. Both “Hugger Mugger” and “Yada Yada” are drawn from the repertoire of the saxophonist’s working group Tetra, a quartet featuring the leader alongside three younger musicians, pianist Kit Downes, bassist Sam Lasserson and drummer James Maddren.

The two pieces appear together on the “Tetra” album and are segued again here, despite sounding very different in this context. “Hugger Mugger” begins with a passage of unaccompanied piano with Laginha subsequently joined by the mellifluous sound of Arguelles’ soprano and later the delicate nuances of Norbakken’s percussion. The tone is wistful, almost melancholic but the mood changes as Norbakken establishes a more conventional groove and Arguelles makes the switch to tenor, soloing on the larger horn as the music acquires a gently brooding intensity. There’s a folk like quality about the melody that some reviewers have compared to Jan Garbarek’s work with Keith Jarrett’s European quartet.

The album concludes with two pieces written by Laginha, the first of these being the haunting “Horn Please” with its long, plaintive saxophone melody lines underscored by slowly rolling piano figures and the atmospheric rustle of Norbakken’s percussion.

Finally we hear the graceful “Lugar Bem Situado”, which exhibits similar qualities but also embodies an almost anthemic lyricism.

“Setembro” is a frequently beautiful album that fulfils its goals superbly. The quality of the writing, and of the playing, is exceptional throughout with producers Laginha and Nelson Carvalho capturing every nuance of this delicately detailed music.

There are probably some that would dismiss “Setembro” as chamber jazz but the music, for all its beauty, is far from soporific and demands considerable attention from the listener if its full subtlety, richness and quality is to be appreciated. The writing, from both Laginha and Arguelles is multi-faceted and full of interesting ideas that help to keep the listener engaged.

Laginha and Arguelles are particularly well suited as a duo and their compatibility is sometimes reminiscent of the rapport that Arguelles enjoyed with the late, great John Taylor. But Norbakken’s contribution should not be overlooked. His percussion adds detail, nuance and propulsion, ensuring that this should be considered as a fully collaborative trio recording. Despite being relatively understated the Norwegian’s playing is colourful and inventive throughout, his musicality and intelligence adding so much to the music, yet never imposing unduly.

The trio of Laginha, Arguelles and Norbakken toured the UK in October 2017 but with the majority of the gigs taking place in London or the North of England I was unable to get an opportunity to see them.  Given the positive response given to “Setembro” let’s hope Edition can tempt the trio back to the UK again some time in 2018.


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