The ten tracks of Unknown Shores—an album from the quartet of bass clarinetist João Pedro Viegas, bass clarinetist/clarinetist Luiz Rocha, pianist Silvia Corda and double bassist Adriano Orrù—trace an arc from a fully realized, introverted exchange of lines that would be at home in a piece of Modernist chamber music, through a variety of abstract, acoustic musique concrète, and back to vigorous melodic interplay. It’s improvised music that’s well-thought out and consequently plays like a suite of intimately related parts.
From the opening moments, when Corda introduces a set of atonal motifs which she develops with variations and ornamentations, the music’s basic vocabulary is established. In a gradual, additive process the other players enter, ushered in by Orrù’s arco bass. The combination of instruments makes for intriguing contrasts and coincidences of sound, with the two reeds and bowed bass often fusing to one side and the piano offering creative opposition from the other. The four keep the textures open and polychromatic, breaking at times into changing configurations of twos and threes, and leavening conventional playing with episodes of extended techniques. All get solo space as well, which adds a further level of color affects to an already finely calibrated group sound. Recurring thematic material, much of it derived from atonal pitch sets introduced by the piano and picked up, replicated, refigured and refined by the reeds and bass, gives the music local cohesion and global continuity. If the music seems composed at times it’s largely due to the adept listening and apt responses of these four highly accomplished improvisers.