The Perfume Comes Before the Flower
One of the most promising aspects of the Lisbon-based Clean Feed label is their penchant for bringing together hometown heroes and improvisers from elsewhere, notably the United States.
Brazil-born tenorman Alipio C. Neto, also of the IMI Kollektief, joins forces with Downtown New Yorkers, drummer Michael T.A. Thompson, tubaist Ben Stapp and trumpeter Herb Robertson, and globetrotting bassist Ken Filiano for a set of hard-driving freebop and rangy group improvisations.
The first cut brings together what are ostensibly two different tunes, “The Perfume Comes Before” and “Early News.” The first part of that equation has Neto and Filiano providing a husky and delicate bottom figure while Robertson skates atop, his own fat sound broken into pulpit-pounding shards. There’s a brief unison rejoinder before Filiano’s furious horsehairs coax Neto into grounding his boot heels and stitching together a solo of heady contrasts.
He has a soft, breathy tone and an introverted sense of pacing, mostly holding back the fireworks despite the ensemble’s tendency to splay out. One doesn’t really think of “caution” coupled with a big, fat tenor sound and meaty group improvisation, but Neto’s working of phrases in “Early News” is not unlike the delicacy out of the gate you’d hear from Marzette Watts or a young Joe McPhee. When he does stretch out, as on “The Pure Experience,” his merger of tuneful phrases and burnished yawp has an uncanny resemblance to Sam Rivers.
“The Will/Nissarama” starts with a pizzicato bass recital before the front line enters with a multipart nursery rhyme, turned dark with Robertson’s nasty chortle and snide growls.
Neto’s choice of frontline partner is interesting, for Robertson’s brashness and frequent extroverted smears are in direct contrast to the pensive ferocity of the leader’s tenor. Goaded into calculated yelps and false-fingered buzz, one feels like he’s just barely keeping his exuberance corked.
Neto’s writing isn’t merely of blowing vehicles; approaching territory explored by Dewey Redman, “The Flower” is texturally diverse (Robertson doubles here on a musette-like instrument). Stapp fleshes out the low end, marching in tandem with Filiano as pinched reed exhortations bubble up from the depths.
The trumpeter is at his most stately here, his bravura in neat opposition to the dusky landscape Neto has formed. “Aboio” grows naturally out of “Flower,” delineated by brighter colors and a more pronounced rhythm – yet still indebted to its free seed. It’ll be interesting to see how Neto grows as a composer and soloist; a power-trio and its unfettered view of the helm is my vote for the latter.
By Clifford Allen