SEI MIGUEL — Salvation Modes (review)

SEI MIGUEL — Salvation Modes album cover Live album · 2014 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
snobb
For enthusiastic jazz fans, who as me listen to tens or even hundred of new releases every year,this problem is most probably well known - your ears can more and more easily separate excellent musicians from not so good ones,you can recognize more and more even small nuances in your music, but at the same time you evidence that terrible "sameness" of all modern jazz. Main field of unexpected experiments lies somewhere in grey zone of quirky and generally very non-musical improvisations,huge part of which should be tagged as aural/sounds/instrumental freaksperimentation and it hardly adds any valuable experience to modern jazz.There as rule are released a few really good modern jazz albums every year and each of them are true event."Salvation Modes" is not just one among best this year releases,it's extremely rare jazz album,containing new good jazz!

French-born and long-lived in Brazil trumpeter Sei Miguel is well known to extremely small crowd of good modern jazz fans. Or in other words,being a Portuguese (where he lives for years)jazz celebrity,often called "Portuguese avant-garde jazz godfather" he is almost unknown outside of the country. Sei released his debut album (already in Portugal) being 27 years old(in 1988) and since that in his discography containing more than ten albums there's only one released outside of Portugal (on active but minor Lithuanian NoBusiness Records).So it's not strange if you never heard his name before.

To be honest,from previous two or three Miguel albums I heard before I had very controversial feeling: too often he sounded as mad genius,playing music for the parallel world. This new Clean Feed release placed everything to its places - it's almost masterpiece.

Three long compositions,all coming from previous time, but newly recorded with three different groups.All music is liquid,slow but never lazy,quite cold very free but at the same time well-controlled. Most important thing here is most probably Miguel comes from some untypical background where all musical elements are combined in slightly unusual manner for excellent result.

Album's opener "Prelúdio E Cruz De Sala" is longest track lasting more than 27 minutes. It's played by electro-acoustic quartet,containing besides of Sei his regular guitarist Pedro Gomes,percussionist César Burago and trombonist Fala Mariam. From very first sounds music reminds early electric Miles fusion,aerial,liquid,but not psychedelic,more dark ambient influenced cold,well calculated,almost industrial by sound's aesthetic. Differently from ambient music, lot of things happens here all the time adding lot of life to musical mass viscosity. In moments this music recalls early Bill Dixon third stream - related music, just here it goes more far from its roots. Third stream in dark ambient age. Somewhere after 23 minute when listener doesn't expect big changes in flow processed scratchy guitar's sound breaks musical mass to two parts by real industrial scratchy drill increasing sound intensity and tension to maximum.

Second composition "Fermata" (titled by catastrophic earthquake in Latin America some decades ago)is played by different quartet: this time Miguel collaborates with same as above percussionist César Burago (using radio for producing lot of radio air noises), adding double bass Margarida Garcia (using specific twin bass) and organist André Gonçalves. Shortest album's composition (under 10 minutes long) are minimalist,slow but full of energy. Radio air noises build background for precise trumpet's and percussion's soloing acupuncture,when bass builds minimalist but almost mainstream rhythm structures. Hammond organ doesn't sound as if you're listen to 70s soul jazz at all - most often it's used to generate some sounds and noises as alternative to electronic effects.

Final album's composition "Cantata Mussurana" lasts 18 minutes and is played by largest collective. Here Sei uses two bandeonists,traditional bass section (drummer plus electric bassist),his regular guitarist Pedro Gomes,violinist Ernesto Rodrigues,trombonist Fala Mariam,Rafael Toral on sound effects and - a vocalist! Kimi Djabaté narrates and sings Creole purification ritual text translated from French to Portuguese. This composition is well framed and anchored by almost funky if extremely slow bass,and as both previous flows slow with even more tension,nervous atmosphere,lot of percussion,guitar and especially trumpet sounds around.It very successfully transfers New Orleans shamanism to new era urban sound without destroying it and without even a smallest traces of kitsch or imitation.It's dark,it's heavy,it's genuine,it's original - and it works.

"Salvation Modes" is easily one of the best albums I heard this year. Take "Bitches Brew",add early Bill Dixon third stream avant-garde aesthetics,mix with dark ambient,industrial,Don Cherry pocket trumpet,remove all 60s/70s elements (psychedelia,guitar soloing,etc,etc),filter using "less is more" formula and forget all cliches - this is "Salvation Modes",with no doubt most original album of true adventurous jazz I heard this year.
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