Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Reviewed by: Tim Owen
The emphasis on rhythm, coupled to Gallo’s classicist approach, makes the album instantly appealing. It should please world music fans as readily as the jazz market.
Ricardo Gallo Cuarteto
Ricardo Gallo was the pianist on one of last year’s outstanding albums, the Peter Evans Quartet’s “Live in Lisbon”. The precision and lucidity of Gallo’s playing on that date, by turns potent and delicate, was essential to its success. Recorded just six months later, in January 2010, “Resistencias” sees Gallo reunited with his own quartet, each member of which is a band-leader in their own right, recording their third album on home turf at a studio in Bogotá, Colombia.
Where Gallo was Peter Evans’ secret weapon that night in Lisbon, Gallo’s quartet derives much of its character from the interplay of kit drums and percussion, played by Jorge Sepulveda and Juan David Castaño respectively, although the lissom bass playing of Juan Manuel Toro is no less essential. Castaño adopts a new instrument on almost every number, and his choices ensure that there is a great deal of rhythmic variation across the album’s eight tracks.
The first track, “Bailemesta”, instantly reminded me of the best of the late ‘80’s albums that David Murray made with the pianist John Hicks, essaying contrasting passages of free-wheeling rhythmic bounce and suspended energy, touching – particularly in Gallo’s soloing toward the end of the piece – on the avant-garde, though never losing essential tonal warmth. Castaño’s tin cymbals offer an unusual accompaniment. The Cuarteto is a perfect vehicle for a pianist such as Gallo, who marries a refreshingly direct boldness with overt, almost romantic lyricism, but much of the interest for an international jazz audience will reside in the rhythmical support that the Cuarteto provide.
“Inseguridad Democrática” is a slow-burning Gallo feature with restrained lyrical accompaniment, but on the following “Carola y Pascual” Gallo maintains a series of variations on a dancing refrain which embellishes the repeating patterns established by Sepulveda’s light touch and Castaño’s pandeiro (a Portuguese hand-held frame drum, similar to a tambourine).
These introductory pieces are appealing enough, but the album really starts to impress from the moment the album’s highlight “Aurora Parcial” begins with Juan Manuel Toro’s supple double bass solo. From there the cuarteto develop a melodic idea introduced by Gallo through a serpentine flow of dancing rhythm and classically-inflected piano. A disputative three-way dialogue between the bass joined first by percussion, then piano, leads to a more heated finale. It’s a complex piece, yet Gallo’s piano remains sinuously lyrical throughout. Castaño’s percussion – here the cununo, a light, hand-held drum similar to a conga – is again a key ingredient in the mix; the seamless ways in which he and Sepulveda find to work together are essential to the quartet’s cohesion.
“Kitchen Kuartet Kumbia” is a feature for Gallo’s melodica, electric bass and caja vallenata, a type of tambor. It’s a nice interlude in the album’s flow, and its impressive how song-like Gallo can make the melodica, despite its peculiarly limited nasal sound. The track’s relaxedness is more telling of the quartet’s maturity than many a more frenetic workout might be. By way of contrast, the tricksy “Iky” has Gallo playing off against the intricate, enmeshed rhythms of the kit drum, cajón (one of those box drums that the percussionist sits astride to slap) and wood bongo.
Resistencias’ final track, “Viejo Presagio” initiates a mood of elegant melancholia, with both Gallo and Toro – back on double bass – delving into bold, song-like solos. Gallo eventually ends the piece abruptly, as if to emphasise that there is much more untapped music in this fine group. And yet, there is a new Gallo album, ‘The Great Fine Line’, on offer from the Portuguese Clean Feed label. It features a fine international line-up, christened ‘Tierra de Nadie’, which promises to be quite something.
But I recommend that you don’t overlook the fine work of the Resistencias quartet. They play with an easy-going grace, as if divorced from the overbearing pressures and constant demands for innovation and novelty, which make so many otherwise fine albums from the UK or USA sound contrived by comparison. The emphasis on rhythm, coupled to Gallo’s classicist approach, makes the album instantly appealing. It should please world music fans as readily as the jazz market. But there’s no need to take my word for it: you can hear tracks from “Resistencias”, and other albums from the catalogue of the Bogotá-based collective La Distritofonica, at http://www.ladistritofonica.com
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