Coming seven years after the Lisbon-based Motion Trio’s debut, Desire & Freedom (NotTwo) is only their second album of trioism after two pairs of live and studio quartet recordings with guest Americans, Jeb Bishop and Peter Evans. Excellent as those albums are, the unadorned cello, drums and sax really make the most of an uncluttered sound stage.
Miguel Mira’s cello can evoke the fullness of a double bass, but also has a nimbleness to match the brittle dynamics of Gabriel Ferrandini’s frenetically pointillist drumming: on the first cut, a whirlwind of taut snare contacts, cymbal-shard and rimshot.
Amado’s tenor sax cuts right through with fulsome tone and conceptual clarity.
Peter Brötzmann is on record as saying he’d rather relax to Ben Webster than to listen to improv at home, but it would be a safe bet he’d appreciate the forthright way Amado handles tone and melody in an improv context: in those respects Amado connects back to the Webster/Bechet old school, balancing tough, vibrato-rich playing with flashes of unabashed tenderness, and the Motion Trio are never less than supremely listenable.
Yet the album’s liner notes emphasise just how fierce Amado’s identification with improv as ideology is. They quote from a 1946 text by libertarian/occultist/rocket engineer Jack Parsons, par of which – “Freedom is a two-edged sword of which one edge is liberty and the other responsibility, on which both edges are exceedingly sharp” – also provides the album’s track titles.
“Freedom Is A Two-Edged Sword” is fifteen minutes of more-or-less ceaseless agitation on Ferrandini’s part, Mira busily plucking away in counterpoint while Amado chews over nuggets of rhythm and melody. When he really gets stuck into something it’s his sax that takes over, goading the others to greater intensities while never losing the contours of the music’s conception.
“Liberty” starts off in impressionistic mode, with Mira staking out a blueprint to be expanded on by a typically kinetic Ferrandini. With cello and percussion expanding the improv spatially, Amado first reins in their nervous excitement by luxuriating in blues-suffused rumination, then breaks into a deluge of saxophony that ranges from free-swing to rough timbre’d improv and a hyper-sensitive cello duet.
Mira doesn’t use a bow, preferring always to operate within Ferrandini’s freewheeling orbit. This allows Amado space for luxuriantly direct and outgoing saxophony. The trio can read and accommodate each others’ mood shifts, and their practised attentiveness is key to the tight-knit logic of the changes that ebb and surge through “Responsibility”. To pick just one highlight: Amado’s insinuation of harsh, burred tonalities and soured licks into a brittle, exploded cello/drums duet.
Amado can be introspective and meditative even when the others are engaged in vigorous, precision-tooled turbulence, and he adds sinew to their more feverish exchanges. The trio complement each other so perfectly there’s not a dull or flabby instant in this rivetingly vivid 53 minutes of music.
Rodrigo Amado tenor saxophone; Miguel Mira cello; Gabriel Ferrandini drums.
Buy Desire & Freedom direct from rodrigoamado.bandcamp.com.