by Ian Mann
November 12, 2018
This was the sound of a well drilled regular working band really hitting its stride in a highly conducive venue and with an attentive and appreciative audience.
Vitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018.
For their November event Shrewsbury Jazz Network hosted the Portuguese born, London based guitarist and composer Vitor Pereira and his highly accomplished quintet.
A native of Porto Pereira studied classical guitar in his homeland, graduating in 2003, but a growing fascination for jazz found him seeking 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.
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 is back with a self released new album “Somewhere in the Middle” featuring a line up including Williams, Nathoo and Teixeira 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.
“Somewhere In The Middle” features eight new original compositions from Pereira and the quintet performed the entire repertoire tonight, albeit in a different running order to the album. The album title is intended to embody the space where “the audience meet the musicians in a symbiotic middle plane of mutual stimulation”.
It may sound a rather lofty concept but essentially this is what happened with a receptive Shrewsbury audience responding well to the quintet’s sometimes challenging music. It was a gig that rewarded SJN’s adventurous booking policy with an audience of over eighty forming part of near full house. Both band and audience were delighted with the turnout, fifty would have represented a break-even figure, so this was a real win-win situation with the positive audience reaction spurring the quintet on as they delivered some excellent playing. Vitor was
pleased with the level of CD sales too, with the audience taking advantage of some very generous deals, especially with regard to the earlier material.
Pereira’s influences as a composer include jazz pianist Vijay Iyer but he also draws inspiration from the folk music of his native Portugal, plus the world of rock, including such bands as Queens Of The Stone Age. The guitarist describes his writing as including both “head-banging guitar riffs” and “the complexity of contrapuntal interweaving melodic lines”. In truth we probably heard more of the latter tonight, but for all its harmonic and rhythmic sophistication this was music that remained eminently accessible thanks to some tight, highly accomplished ensemble playing allied to fluent and adventurous soloing, all this fuelled by the supple but propulsive grooves laid down by Coady and Teixeira, who combined effectively throughout.
Plenty of that ‘contrapuntal interweaving’ could be heard on the opening tune, “Alternative Facts”, the title presumably a comment on the current predilection for ‘fake news’. The tersely dovetailing saxophone lines of Williams and Nathoo combined with the leader’s sophisticated chording to create a lattice of sound that floated above the sturdy grooves laid down by Coady and Teixeira. This densely written, but consistently absorbing, piece saw the lead shifting between alto, tenor and guitar but with no single musician breaking out to deliver an orthodox jazz solo. There was to be more of that later on in the set as the quintet, doubtless encouraged by the audience reaction, began to open up more. What was immediately apparent was just how tight this unit was, particularly with regard to the written passages, this was a proper ‘working band’.
On “Refreshments” Williams and Nathoo tended to operate in tandem, often doubling up on the melody lines, rather than deploying contrapuntal techniques. Perieira’s writing remained intricate, but his tricky melodic themes also provided the jumping off point for (relatively) conventional jazz soloing with Williams going first on incisive alto. Pereira’s subsequent dialogue with bassist Coady provided an effective contrast before the leader stretched out with a more expansive guitar solo, favouring a clean, distortion free sound that demonstrated a high level of fretboard agility and musical sophistication.
“Anima” may have been inspired by the writings of the psychologist Carl Jung but it saw the quintet building up an impressive head of steam courtesy of the flexible but propulsive grooves generated by Coady and Teixeira. Indeed it was Coady who took the first solo, impressing in terms of dexterity, resonance and melodic sense. A bandleader in his own right Coady led the international quintet Synergy, a band that featured both Julian Arguelles and the great American alto saxophonist David Binney. Pereira followed on guitar, again adopting a conventional jazz guitar sound combining bebop stylings with more contemporary influences. The closing stages of the piece featured the thrilling carousing of the two saxes with Williams providing some stunning high register blowing.
The first set concluded with album opener “Lomo”, named for an eclectic bar in Pereira’s native Porto, a music venue that hosts events ranging from all out rock to experimental jazz and beyond.
This riff based composition had a genuinely celebratory feel about it with the leader now bringing his range of effects pedals into play as he unleashed a fuzzed up, rock influenced guitar solo, his fretboard pyrotechnics fuelled by Teixeira’s brisk, crisp drum grooves. There was to be no let up in intensity as Nathoo stretched out with an extended tenor solo that combined fluency with a bristling power. This brought the first set to a turbo-charged conclusion and was vociferously appreciated by a discerning audience. Such was the momentum that the band had generated it was a shame to be going into the break.
The second half commenced with “Tag Along”, actually the final track on the new album. This offered further examples of the dynamic interplay between the two saxes as they negotiated Pereira’s complex melodic themes with considerable aplomb. Solos here came from Coady on double bass ,Wiliams on alto and Pereira on guitar with Texeira’s deft drumming driving the increasingly animated band forwards.
At almost nine minutes in duration “Something in the Middle” is the lengthiest item on the new album and also proved to be something of an epic here. Complex but dramatic tonight’s performance covered a broad stylistic and dynamic range with impressionistic saxophone chorales and the leader’s thoughtful guitar soloing contrasting with more dynamic sections, with the quintet sometimes adding an element of wilful dissonance to a performance featuring some of Pereira’s most ambitious writing.
If the title track was somewhat intense then the lovely “Twilight Trails” calmed things down again. The penultimate track on the recording it represented the only piece even approaching a ballad performance. A passage of unaccompanied guitar introduced the piece with Pereira making effective use of his FX pedals to create a Frisell like ambience. Williams’ alto then picked out the distinctive melody, shadowed by the swish and rumble of Texeira’s brushes and mallets. Coady’s double bass solo was followed by Nathoo on breathy tenor, dovetailing beguilingly with Williams’ alto prior to a gentle guitar / double bass outro.
It was perhaps appropriate that the performance should end with the tight, riffy “Better Late Than Never”, which raised the energy levels once more with its staccato twin sax blasting and the sound of the leader’s fuzzed up, rock influenced guitar. Nathoo dug in on tenor for his lengthiest solo of the night as he shared the spotlight with the leader’s heavily distorted guitar.
The Shrewsbury crowd gave the quintet a great reception for this frequently complex original music, with several getting to their feet and many shouting for more. The band needed little coaxing to return to the stage, choosing to play “Bohm’s Hologram”, a piece from the “New World” album inspired by the subject of quantum physics! Introduced by the contrapuntal pecked sounds of the two saxes the piece quickly gathered momentum with the addition of guitar, bass and drums with Williams embarking on an agreeably meandering alto solo. This was followed by an engaging set of exchanges between the leader on guitar and Nathoo on tenor before the piece ended as it began with the distinctive sound of the two reeds.
This was the sound of a well drilled regular working band really hitting its stride in a highly conducive venue with an attentive and appreciative audience. Between them the band and their listeners proved that “Somewhere in the Middle” can be a great place to be. The album itself is strongly recommended.
My thanks to Vitor, Chris and Adam for speaking with me afterwards.
The Vitor Pereira Quintet tour continues with forthcoming dates at;
12th November in Manchester at The Whiskey Jar https://nqjazz.com
16th November in Birmingham at Jazzlines https://www.thsh.co.uk
17th November in Brighton at The Verdict https://verdictjazz.co.uk
18th November in Southampton at Southampton modern jazz club http://www.southamptonmodernjazzclub.com
5th December in London at The Vortex http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk - Official release date
More information at;
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