by Ian Mann
November 17, 2022
Ian Mann enjoys a double bill of bands led by the Portuguese born, London based guitarist and composer Vitor Pereira.
Vitor Pereira, Electric Chamber and Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 12/11/2022.
Vitor Pereira – guitar, Alam Nathoo – tenor saxophone, Natalie Rozario – cello, Marek Dorcik – drums
Vitor Pereira – guitar, Alam Nathoo – tenor sax, Chris Williams – alto sax, Andrea Di Biase – double bass, Marek Dorcik – drums
Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s presentation for November 2022 offered an intriguing proposition, a double bill of bands led by the Portuguese born, London based guitarist and composer Vitor Pereira.
It represented Pereira’s second visit to The Hive following his 2018 quintet appearance in support of his then current album “Somewhere In The Middle”. My review of that highly successful performance can be found here and forms the source for the following biographical details.
A native of Porto Pereira studied classical guitar in his homeland, graduating in 2003, but a growing fascination for jazz found him seeking out private tuition from such guitar luminaries as Pat Metheny, Gilad Hekselman and Jonathan Kreisberg, plus pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Matt Penman.
Pereira moved to England in 2004 to study on the Jazz course at Middlesex University where his tutors included guitarist Mike Outram, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Hall, trumpeter Chris Batchelor and pianist Nikki Iles. He has since remained in the UK, gradually establishing himself as a significant presence on the British jazz scene. Among those with whom he has worked are saxophonists Binker Golding and Josh Arcoleo, trumpeter Andre Canniere and drummer Asaf Sirkis.
Pereira has released three albums as a leader, all of them in the same instrumental format of guitar, alto sax, tenor sax, double bass and drums. A constant presence in all of Pereira’s groups has been alto saxophonist Chris Williams, a fellow Middlesex alumnus who is probably best known to UK jazz audiences as a member of the mighty Led Bib and who is also part of the London / Manchester quartet Let Spin.
Pereira made his recording début in 2012 with “Doors”, an impressive offering on the F-ire Presents label that saw Pereira and Williams joined by James Allsopp on tenor sax, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Eddie Hick at the drums.
2016’s equally impressive “New World”, which also appeared on the F-ire Presents imprint, featured a new line up with George Crowley on tenor, Andrea Di Biase on bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums. The standard of both the writing and the playing remained high as Pereira and his colleagues delivered another high quality recording.
Around the time of the release of “New World” I reviewed a performance by a quintet featuring Pereira, Williams and Trebilcock plus tenor saxophonist Alam Nathoo and Canadian born drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira at a Birmingham Jazz event at the Red Lion in the Jewellery Quarter. My account of that performance, plus a look at the then new album can be viewed here;
Fast forward to 2018 and Pereira was back with a self released new album “Somewhere in the Middle” featuring a line up including Williams, Nathoo and Teixeira and with new recruit Mick Coady handling bass duties. It was this line up that Pereira brought to The Hive for the third night of a nine date tour partly financed by a successful crowdfunding campaign.
October 2022 saw Pereira taking the bold step of self releasing two new recordings simultaneously.
His fourth quintet album is “Jung”, a collection of seven compositions inspired by the work of the psychiatrist Carl Jung, a figure in whom Pereira has been interested for a long time. Indeed the composition “Anima”, which appeared on “Somewhere In The Middle” drew on the same source of inspiration. The line up on the “Jung” recording is exactly the same as on its predecessor – Pereira, Williams, Nathoo, Coady and Teixeira.
“Electric Chamber”, a four track recording lasting around twenty four minutes, and therefore essentially an EP, introduces a new group, albeit with a high degree of interlinked personnel as Pereira, Nathoo and Teixeira are joined by cellist Rupert Gillett. It was to be a different version of the Electric Chamber quartet that was the first line up to take to the stage tonight.
As is often the case with jazz it proved to be impossible for Pereira to field the full album line ups and both groups saw some enforced changes in personnel. Tonight’s version of Electric Chamber saw Pereira and Nathoo joined by Slovakian born drummer Marek Dorcik and by cellist Natalie Rozario, the latter replacing the advertised Shirley Smart, who in turn seems to have replaced Gillett as the group’s regular cellist.
Dorcik leads his own group Spercasa and has also worked with Moss Project and with the Brownfield / Byrne Quintet. I know Rozario’s playing best from her time with trumpeter Rory Simmons’ much missed large ensemble Fringe Magnetic. She has also worked with Simmons and Fringe Magnetic vocalist Elisabeth Nygaard as a guest musician with their Eyes of a Blue Dog project and was also a member of MooV, a quintet led by composer, pianist and electronic artist Colin Riley that also featured Nygaard. More recently Rozario has worked on projects featuring saxophonist Julian Costello and guitarist Patrick Naylor.
Pereira’s compositions for the Electric Chamber recording are simply titled “Chamber 1,2,3 and 4” and we were to hear three of these tonight plus a highly impressive new piece with a similarly non-descriptive title, “2022”.
The guitarist says of the Electric Chamber project;
“I was listening to a lot of classical music and thought about making a quartet with a cello and exploring such compositional techniques as counterpoint or a cannon but adapted to my sound. I also wanted to write longer pieces where the music flows organically between improvised and written material as well as moving through a variety of different atmospheres. This is a very exciting project to write for, the cello instead of the double bass expands the range of opportunities to a whole new level. It can play a usual bass part but can also have that beautiful bowed string quality that gives the music a kind of cinematic impression. In attempting to feature some of these different functions I could make music that emphasises a big variety of dynamics and moods, going from emotional and introspective moments to vigorous and explosive ones”.
He mentions the difficulties involved in finding a suitable cellist for the project, one capable of improvising in chords, but in Gillett, Smart and now Rozario he has found the musicians capable of bringing his ideas to fruition.
I think the first piece was “Chamber 2”, introduced by a guitar motif, this rapidly joined by the sound’s of Dorcik’s cymbals and Nathoo’s tenor sax melody, answered by the leader’s counter melodies on guitar. The liberal use of counterpoint was readily apparent, and although Rozario’s cello was rather too low in the mix on this opening number she was still featured as a soloist, alongside Nathoo on tenor.
A judicious adjustment at the mixing desk saw the volume of the cello increased with Rozario now becoming a more equal member of the ensemble. The second piece again saw her sharing the solos with Nathoo, while Pereira made astute use of his range of guitar effects. With electric guitar and drum kit in the line up this was nothing like a conventional ‘chamber jazz’ group, which would normally eschew the use of electric instruments and drums. This was a quartet that brought a different meaning to the phrase ‘chamber jazz’ by successfully borrowing from the compositional techniques of chamber music and applying them in an electric jazz setting.
Introduced by a passage of unaccompanied, Bill Frisell like guitar, which again made judicious use of a variety of effects, the third item was perhaps the most obvious ‘chamber piece’ thus far as Pereira was joined by cello and tenor sax with Dorcik sitting out in the early stages. Elongated sax melody lines contrasted with staccato cello with Pereira adding extra layers of counterpoint and with a mallet wielding Dorcik eventually entering the fray. Nathoo then soloed more expansively on tenor sax as the piece became more rhythmic and dynamic.
Due to the similarity of the titles Pereira declined to name tonight’s pieces, with the exception of the closing “2022”. Tonight’s performances differed substantially from the recorded versions, emphasising the importance of improvisation in the group’s music.
The introduction to the new piece “2022” also featured Pereira solo and making subtle use of live looping and other effects as he manipulated a battery of floor mounted gizmos. Cello, tenor sax and brushed drums were subsequently added with Dorcik fulfilling the role of colourist within this semi-ambient setting. Later a groove began to emerge, beginning with the sound of Rozario’s percussive bowing and later incorporating the drums as Nathoo’s tenor soared above the rhythms. This was a lengthy piece that also accommodated further solos from Rozario and Pereira before concluding in more abstract fashion with the sound of guitar FX, cello, tenor and cymbals.
Electric Chamber offers an interesting variation on Pereira’s music for the quintet, extending the use of counterpoint, also a component of the quintet’s music, and introducing further ideas sourced from classical music. For all its complexity it’s still very much jazz with plenty of opportunity allowed for improvisation within the semi-classical framework.
Once the sound issues had been sorted out the group performed the challenging material admirably. The musical relationship between regular members Pereira and Nathoo was highly important, but Dorcik and the classically trained Rozario also acquitted themselves well as the quartet enjoyed a very positive response from the Shrewsbury audience.
VITOR PEREIRA QUINTET
Pereira had effectively been his own ‘support act’ and the second part of the evening featured a more extensive set from his quintet, essentially his regular working group.
Dorcik remained at the drum kit with the Italian born Andrea Di Biase, a former member of the group and who appears on the “New World” recording, coming in on double bass. Pereira, Nathoo and Williams formed the distinctive guitar / double sax front line.
All of tonight’s music was sourced from the “Jung” recording and pretty much followed the album running order. As with the Electric Chamber group the music veered between densely written ensemble passages, with the use of counterpoint again an important component, and more loosely structured improvisational episodes. Pereira has spoken of the music “moving organically through improvised and written moments and especially exploring the darkness between darkness and luminosity”. Thus each track embraces a range of moods and dynamics, the complexity of the writing representing a rewarding challenge for the musicians. The music was written during the Covid period and recorded immediately after the second lockdown had ended in April 2021.
The quintet began with album opener “Individuation”, inspired by Jung’s theories of self-development. This combined complex rhythms with the sax counterpoint of Nathoo’s tenor and Williams’ alto, with the leader’s guitar nimbly occupying the hinterland between the two horns and the rhythm section. As the quintet began to stretch out and improvise we enjoyed expansive solos from Pereira, Nathoo and Williams, the latter generating an almost Led Bib like power on occasion.
Pereira spoke of the contrasts between darkness and luminosity in Jung’s work with reference to “The Hero”, one of the stand out pieces on the album and of this set. Tonight’s rendition was different to the recorded version and began with the sound of unaccompanied guitar, subsequently joined by double bass. The saxes combined to state the theme before diverging, with Nathoo’s tenor solo offset by Williams’ counter melodies. Di Biase followed with an extended, and highly melodic, double bass solo. Williams took the next solo on alto, this followed by a more reflective ensemble episode and finally a furious riff based finish – plenty of darkness and luminosity here.
The ‘darkness and luminosity’ concept also fed into “Dreams, Myths and Fairytales”, with Pereira’s tune announcement cautioning us that dreams can be both good and bad. The beginning of the piece was much as one might have expected, atmospheric, impressionistic, loosely structured. Out of this emerged subtly intertwining sax and guitar lines as Nathoo, Williams and Pereira entered into a series of beguiling melodic exchanges, these gradually becoming more intense as behind them Di Biase and Dorcik begin to play with an increasing assertiveness.
There was a slight change to the album running order as “The Collective Unconscious” (which precedes ‘Dreams..’ on the album) followed. Pereira’s introductory guitar was quickly joined by bass and drums, then by tenor and finally alto. The rhythm section temporarily sat out as Nathoo and Williams exchanged phrases, echoes here of the counterpoint of Electric Chamber, before being joined in a three way discussion by Pereira as the rhythm section also kicked in again. Horns and guitar continued to trade ideas for the remainder of the piece, their exchanges consistently absorbing and often dazzling.
The recorded version of “Mandala” is over ten minutes in length, and thus is arguably the centre point of the album. It’s the most in depth examination of the ‘darkness / luminosity’ concept and was introduced here by a tenor / alto duo with Nathoo and Williams growling at each other in animated fashion, subsequently joined by guitar, bass and the shimmer of mallets on cymbals in a ‘free jazz’ section that nevertheless formed part of a wider overall script. Eventually an elegant melodic theme emerged, this forming the basis for exploratory solos from Pereira and Williams, with Nathoo eventually forming a response to Williams’ high register alto blasting. The piece closed with a passage of full on skronk, the apocalyptic riffing eliciting a highly enthusiastic response from the Shrewsbury crowd.
The inevitable encore was “Synchronicity”, the final track on the “Jung” album and one distinguished here by its instrumental interplay and complex riffing, with the leader cutting loose with a powerful guitar solo.
The only piece from the “Jung” repertoire not to feature in tonight’s quintet performance was the fifth track on the album, “The Shadow”. Introduced by double bass and featuring suitably shadowy / sinister guitar and saxophone and with Nathoo the featured soloist the piece fits well into the fabric of the album as a whole and would not have sounded out of place here. It’s exclusion was simply a case of time restraints one suspects.
With a higher proportion of the album personnel in place the quintet performance was the more convincing of the two, but both sets were absorbing and enjoyable with this often challenging music drawing an excellent response from a typically adventurous Shrewsbury audience.
My thanks to Vitor, Chris and Natalie for speaking with me after the gig. Both the “Electric Chamber” and “Jung” albums are highly recommended.blog comments powered by Disqus