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Luís Lopes' Humanization 4tet - Live in Madison

Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure

Luís Lopes is a Portuguese guitarist whose work is grounded in rock, funk and free jazz, but it’s often his electronic conception of the instrument that comes to the fore, a knack for unlikely accompaniments that can include quiet noise and singing quarter-tones and solos that are marked by thoughtful construction and a reflective depth that can suggest the plaintive wail of a shakuhachi. His empathetic play has distinguished some international dialogues on the Clean Feed label, like Afterfall (which includes American saxophonist Joe Giardullo and French bassist Benjamin Dubo) and What Is When (with bassist Adam Lane and Israeli drummer Igal Foni).

Live in Madison is the third CD by the Humanization 4tet, a band that includes Lopes’ fellow Lisboan Rodrigo Amado on tenor saxophone along with Texans Aaron González on bass and Stefan González on drums (the two sound like they were raised to be a rhythm section, whether it’s here or in Yells at Eels with their father, trumpeter Dennis González). Recorded at Madison’s Audio for the Arts on the final night of a ten-city U.S. tour in 2011, the band plays with the intensity and energy that you might expect from their funk and free jazz roots, but they also play with an extraordinary level of control. While the band moves seamlessly from assertive grooves to free, someone is always grounding the performance, sometimes Lopes himself, whose choppy comping effectively anchors and prods Amado’s brilliant squall on “Jungle Gymnastics,” or Stefan González, whose tight rhythmic figures keep Amado’s “Two Girls” together as the rest of the group slides back and forth between groove and chaos. It’s that level of continuous focus that distinguishes the band from some likely parallels such as Last Exit and The Thing. Lopes is an original whose direct roots rarely show, but the extended solo on his “Long March for Frida Kahlo” has a mix of determined economy and angular insistence that suggests some close listening to the best editions of the Magic Band.