AMN Reviews: Patrick Brennan, Maria do Mar, Ernesto Rodrigues, Miguel Mira, Hernâni Faustino & Abdul Moimême – The Sudden Bird of Waiting [Creative Sources CS 674]

Back in spring 2018, New York City alto saxophonist/composer patrick brennan revisited Lisbon. While living there in the 1990s he’d become involved with the Portuguese improvised music community; his return to Lisbon put him once again in the company of the city’s improvisers and resulted in two exhilarating recordings: 2019’s Terraphonia, a duet with electric guitarist and sound artist Abdul Moimême, and now the newly released The Sudden Bird of Waiting.

Like Terraphonia, The Sudden Bird of Waiting was recorded in April, 2018 in Lisbon’s Namouche Studios. Here, brennan is heard mostly on alto saxophone but also occasionally on cornet and jaguar, the latter being an ancient Mesoamerican wind instrument producing a gusty, unpitched sound. In contrast to the earlier set, which explores timbral polarities within the restricted intimacy of the duet, The Sudden Bird of Waiting, which finds brennan alongside of a string quartet of violin (Maria do Mar), viola (Ernesto Rodrigues), cello (Miguel Mira) and double bass (Hernâni Faustino) along with Moimême on two electric guitars played simultaneously and objects, is an essay in the complex sonorities of the contemporary chamber ensemble.

Although the music on the album is fully improvised, the cohesion of the strings and guitars on the one side, and the forceful solo voice of the alto saxophone on the other, give the group’s sound a structural coherence that transcends the momentary alliances that typically form and disperse in the flow of spontaneous music. In fact it is this play of difference separating brennan’s saxophone from the strings and guitars that gives the performance the feel of a multi-movement concerto for alto saxophone and chamber orchestra. Here as on his other recordings, brennan is a compelling soloist. His saxophone emerges as a well-defined, hard-edged line standing out against and weaving through the surrounding masses of sound; these latter consist in an elaborately textured structure built up from the full range of extended and conventional performance techniques present to hand for contemporary players—something of a signature sound for Rodrigues and the string players associated with him. The track Nextness introduces a new element into the mix—the spoken word, in the form of brennan’s dramatic reading of poet Randee Silv’s verbal composition by that name. Silv’s anti-narrative of juxtaposed images and creatively dismantled semantics—a kind of extended technique for language—is perfectly at home in these surroundings.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Patrick Brennan & Abdul Moimême – Terraphonia [Creative Sources CS579CD]

The pairing of alto saxophonist patrick brennan and guitarist Abdul Moimême on terraphonia is an especially piquant one whose symbiosis is, paradoxically, an organic outgrowth of a constant polarity of sound.

The album was recorded in April in Lisbon, the home base for Moimême, a Portuguese native who also has lived in Ireland and the United States. Although his main instrument, as here, is electric guitar, Moimême also studied tenor saxophone under brennan, a New York-based musician. A composer as well as an improviser, brennan has since the 1970s pursued an original musical vision that includes solo saxophone performances as well as composing polyrhythmic works based on short, overlapping melodic cells for a large, modularly-organized ensemble.

There is a basic structure that ties together the seven tracks on terraphonia, a structure that consists in a timbral juxtaposition and contrast growing out of a more or less ongoing difference in voices. On the one side, abstract electronic sound from Moimême’s prepared guitars; on the other, the voice-like inflections of brennan’s wind-channeling alto saxophone and cornet. Moimême’s creative use of a broad spectrum of sounds based on qualities other than pitch frames each piece, while the emotional center of gravity lies in the forceful immediacy of brennan’s playing. The latter includes a generous but judicious use of extended technique, dynamic variation and broken phrasing that parallel the multifaceted qualities of the human voice—its confident assertion and hesitation, its full-throated stridency and confidential whisper. The opposition of timbres that emerges from the relationship between brennan and Moimême makes possible a distinctive kind of confluence: In place of the conventional motive engine of harmonic tension and release, the two set up an intricate, contrapuntal web of convergence and divergence in phrasing and dynamics. Through their sensitivity to each other’s contributions, brennan and Moimême are able to transform the particulars of contrast and difference into a higher-level, expressive synthesis.

Daniel Barbiero