AMN Reviews: Karl Evangelista with Alexander Hawkins, Louis Moholo-Moholo & Trevor Watts – Apura! (2020; Astral Spirits)

Apura!, which takes its name from the Tagalog phrase “very urgent,” is a cross-generational collaboration featuring octogenarian legends Louis Moholo-Moholo and Trevor Watts along with the younger but well-established Karl Evangelista and Alexander Hawkins. The album is a 2CD set. Recorded in late 2018, all tracks were either composed or co-composed by Evangelista. Several of these are performed in respectively trio formats without Moholo-Moholo or Watts. The result is another great release from Astral Spirits, a refreshingly young label with a distinctively retro album cover style.

Evangelista clearly takes the lead throughout with largely improvised guitar themes. Hawkins backs him up with dense clusters of notes, rapid runs, and aggressive chording. These pieces vary in terms of structure from more jam-session oriented to free-improv excursions to explorations that leave plenty of space between notes.

I Eat Death Threats for Breakfast is a representative example, with Evangelista playing variations on a twisted theme while Hawkins solos or pounds notes in a pseudo-martial style. Moholo-Moholo’s contributions involve circular patterns centering on snare and cymbals. Resist adds Watts to the mix for downtempo meanderings that morph into a texturally-tense mass with long-held tones from Evangelista and blowouts from Watts.

An overarching theme of freedom emerges from Apura! – freedom that is joyous but does not come easily. To that point, Warriors builds upon unconventionally overlapping rhythms from Hawkins and Moholo-Moholo, and features simultaneous leads from Evangelista and Watts that border on the plaintive.

The quartet plays with a lot of variables – old and new, tight and loose, tension and release – to form a compelling and enjoyable set. Strong recommendation.