AMN Reviews: Santos Silva, Nebbia, Alonso, Bergman Quartet – Ritual Para Acercarse (2022; Ramble Records)

At first blush, this quartet’s structured free improvisation is reminiscent of that of Anthony Braxton. It moves along the axis between composition and pure spontaneity, lingering at various points along the way. It is not clear from a listener’s perspective, however, whether they follow the “musical system” approach of Braxton. But ultimately that does not matter as Ritual Para Acercarse stands up on its own as a listenable yet challenging exploration.

Consisting of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Camila Nebbia on saxophone, Hara Alonso on piano, and Elsa Bergman on bass, this outfit is not short on talent or adventurousness. Over 40 minutes split between three tracks (two long, one short), this foursome employs complex polyphonic constructs, open-ended passages, and extended techniques. But unlike some free music, there is a lack of directionlessness herein – not that directionlessness is always bad, but it isn’t this group’s modus operandi. Different melodies often come from two or more members simultaneously and they rarely repeat. But one gets the sense that there was some degree of planning involved. Maybe not much, but some. For example, there are no percussion instruments on this album but each musician contributes a degree of percussiveness from time to time.

Ritual Para Acercarse is the effort of a leaderless ensemble – a true democracy of sorts – in which each musician pushes and pulls the others. The outcome is a dense, information-rich set of musical ideas that flow easily from one to the other even as they exhibit a certain jaggedness. Santos Silva, Nebbia, Alonso, and Bergman don’t just play, they invent. Very well done.