Rodrigo Amado's "Searching for Adam"
Before he passed, the late saxophonist Dewey Redman told me that it was getting harder for American musicians to get booked to play lucrative European jazz festivals since "they have their own set of musicians over there now." Not that anyone's competing, but these days, European improvisers take a back seat to no one.
While there may never be another jazz figure of the stature of Armstrong, Ellington, or Parker -- one who changes the way everyone plays -- the syntax and grammar of jazz in all its forms, from traditional to free, have spread to every continent, and it's now possible to take a handful of conversant musos from anywhere and put together a cohesive performing unit on very short notice. The Portuguese Clean Feed label has built a significant and sizable catalog by doing so, and Lisbon-based saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, who's released recordings as a leader for Clean Feed and his own European Echoes label, does the same thing for Polish label NotTwo Records on his latest, Searching for Adam.
The date teams Amado's soulful, earthy tenor and baritone saxes with Taylor Ho Bynum's impressionistic trumpet and the rhythm section of bassist John Hebert and Gerald Cleaver. The leader's dark, rich, vibrato-laden tone evokes the spirits of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and the mature Archie Shepp, with totally modern ideas, while Bynum alternates anxious flurries of notes in the manner of the young Don Cherry with European-inspired extended techniques. Hebert's an agile and inventive bassist, while Cleaver is an Elvin Jones- or Ed Blackwell-like force of nature. Together, they make music that can be either energetic or elegiac, sometimes both within a single piece (as in the 21-minute extemporization "Waiting for Andy").
These Euros make the most beautiful CD packaging, too. A pity, now that Apple's gone and made them all obsolete. The Romance of the Artifact lives, alongside the spirit of inspired and inspiring exploratory music.