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Luís Lopes' Humanization 4tet - Electricity

Phil Freeman, Burning Ambulance

Two Portuguese musicians, guitarist Luís Lopes and saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, are joined on this disc by bassist Aaron González and his drummer brother Stefan, both Americans and sons of trumpeter Dennis González. It’s the second release by the group; the first, self-titled CD was released on Clean Feed in 2008.

This music was recorded almost exactly one year ago, on December 3 and 4, 2009. It has a lot in common with lots of other present-day free jazz, particularly as practiced by East Coast players. “Jungle Gymnastics,” written by Lopes, has a repetitive, cellular melody reminiscent of David S. Ware‘s compositions, and Amado’s playing on the track has a buzzy force that recalls Ware somewhat, while also looking backward to Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders. The bandleader, meanwhile, plays in a hard style that suggests time spent listening to Joe Morris, but also more distortion-dependent players. In fact, a lot of tracks on Electricity remind me of stuff I’ve heard on Morris albums — ”Two Girls” makes me think of Sweat Shop, “Effigy” sounds like the quieter moments of Wildlife.

Not everything here is directly traceable to the influence of musicians on AUM Fidelity (or Clean Feed), though. The González brothers have an interesting rhythmic relationship — while bassist Aaron has a forceful, accurate style that relies on pinpoint strikes as though the strings were a sniper’s bullets, drummer Stefan is much busier, taking off around the kit like he’s trying to introduce swing to a thrash metal band. They don’t really lock in; they play simultaneously rather than together, but it works. In a way, it’s not unlike the dynamic John Paul Jones and John Bonham set up in Led Zeppelin, where a commonality of purpose was implied but rarely explicitly stated. And though this is definitely a jazz album through and through, there’s some pretty serious skronk to be found on “Infidelities”; Amado plays his most quacking, squawking solo on the disc, and beside him, Lopes cuts loose with waves of Sonny Sharrock-style distortion as Stefan González sets up an almost martial rhythm behind him. It’s surprisingly close to the 1980s work of Last Exit, frankly.

Looking at the artwork — Electricity‘s front cover depicts a knotted cable; the inside flap has a shot of a battered amplifier; the back cover shows a Gibson guitar and a leather jacket; and the photo of the band portrays Lopes as a shadowy, long-haired figure, barefoot in a sleeveless T-shirt — I was expecting something a lot noisier and skronkier than this disc, which combines free jazz, some bluesy hard bop, and a dash of funk here and there. But what I did hear wasn’t at all disappointing. Fans of 21st Century out playing will find a lot to like on this record.