Here’s a feisty trio. London-based Ricardo Tejero is a saxophonist I know only from double bassist Dominic Lash’s Quartet, in which he plays alongside percussionist Javier Carmona and pianist Alexander Hawkins.
Spanish bassist Marco Serrato and drummer Borja Díaz also play jazz, alongside clarinetist Gustavo Domínguez in Hidden Forces Trio; but they’ve also recorded, as Orthodox, an eclectic series of doom-metal albums with guitarist Jimenez Gómez. That band has kicked against the boundaries of its genre, but, as the group told Burning Ambulance in 2011: “our goal has been always the same: to play the heaviest and weirdest as we can, no matter of the instrumentation.”
Well, if Orthodox play weird Metal, so Sputnik Trio (Raw Tonk) is weird jazz. Recorded in a Seville studio in June 2013, the trio’s first album comprises 13 tracks, all but two of which are each dispatched in under four minutes; the longest lasts only 5:48.
The first thing that strikes is the raw immediacy of the group’s acoustic sound on lead track “Rag From Mars”, a free-jazzy blast of tenor sax bluster over a disputatious thicket of percussive rumpus and thrumming contrabass.
“Gula Geten” is another kinda free, with Tejero on clarinet emitting first a throaty gargle over a flutter of rapidly-fingered keys, then chorusing with tongue-muted flutters; this over Serrato’s contrabass bowing and Díaz’ agitated drumming and cymbal cascades.
It’s all change again with “Bois Caïman”, on which zen bell tones, gravid bowed bass and simple horn sustains and microphone feedback herald intensities expressed in jagged and dramatic music, with eruptive drumming. Díaz apparently had no formal training, and that’s evident from the intelligence with which he develops the open-form percussion solo “Saturna”.
Tejero’s control always plays in arresting counterpoint to his partners’ unorthodoxy. Witness “Grave For A Dog/Lunar Womb”, on which Tejero is loquacious and Coltrane-esque, but Díaz and Serrato take a curiously circuitous route to ascension.
Serrato sits out on “Copra”, then plays “Ursa Major” solo, playing with preparations that mute the resonances of struck strings and allow for a vigorously barbed, percussive approach. The trio then come back together to blow hard on the album’s longest cut, “Dire Threat”.
There’s a keen attentiveness to the interplay at every moment, and to the texture of the moment, as on “Le Garage Hermétique”, where Díaz plays in clipped accents and scraped-up shards of sound while his companions’ initially free interaction grinds, increasingly frictional, into something altogether rawer.
Serrano and Díaz develop the grinding counterpoint style further on “La Máquina Preñada”, where Tejero’s hoarse vocal tone evokes early Pharoah Sanders. On his solo, “Underground Whisper”, Tejero’s approach is closer to John Butcher’s, with a focus on timbre; likewise the wet rasp of his breath compressed through tubing on “Magma Hurlant”, where he’s accompanied by a vigorously abstract sonic frotage of bass and kit percussion.
The album’s last piece, “Capricorn” erupts from the preceding sonic aridity with vigour, Tejero playing melodically, with an elegiac simplicity, over frenetic drums and bass: a typically expectation-confounding juxtaposition.
Sputnik Trio is an invigoratingly bracing listen. It makes me hungry to hear the group live.
Ricardo Tejero tenor sax, clarinet, microphone feedback; Marco Serrato double bass; Borja Díaz drums.
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Buy Sputnik Trio from Raw Tonk on Bandcamp.