Saturday, January 14, 2012

Carlos Bica & Azul: Things About

Carlos Bica (bass)
Things About (Clean Feed; 2011)
Frank Mobus (guitar)
Jim Black (drums)

I have to admit, I knew pretty much nothing about Carlos Bica until a few weeks ago. And then to find out this trio has been around for two decades made me feel pretty silly. But somehow Bica's Azul trio's new album, Things About (Clean Feed) really hit me. An album with a real sense of emotion and elegance that brims from the group's lyrical structure. It's unassuming at first, but as the disc moves forwards you begin to get sucked into the lovely tonal nature that each musician has created.

"Things About" feels like something America indie group, Low could have drawn up. It's a gentle midtempo piece that floats between folk, rock and jazz. Written by Bica and Mobus, who also share some beautiful interplay throughout the piece. Black adds soft touches as needed but also steps up the beat towards the end, giving the track some additional force.

There are times when Things About feels like the great trio records made by Gateway (John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette). More for the mellow passages of the aforementioned than their uptempo fusion tracks. "Cancao Vazia" is one of those moments. A gentle piece that has traditional Portuguese qualities but also a sense of longing and adventure. Bica's bass wraps around you like a warm blanket. It's slow maneuvering but without this pace you can't fully digest the beauty of the material.

"2011" has a few distinct time signatures that help shift this piece beyond the normal jazz trio. It's rich with harmonics and patterns that definitely feel like an avant rock piece. Black and Bica change direction and improvise with real muscle, which also challenges the textured force of Mobus' performance. With "Sonho De Uma Manha De Outono" I may be again reminded of Gateway, only slightly. Bica delivers a well focused closing number that moves softly but embodies a number of different structured notes.

Maybe it was the time of day. Maybe it was the music I was listening to prior to this. Or maybe it was just the right time. But Things About is a quiet and richly diverse work that settled in after the first spin. For this newcomer to Carlos Bica, I have been completely blown away. I hope you are too. Highly Recommended.

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