More Buenos Aires Improv

I discovered saxophonist Pablo Ledesma through his recent duo album with pianist Agustí Fernandez, which I wrote up in March, and I decided to seek out more of his work.

So, here’s Ledesma in a quartet setting (“Cuarteto Orillas”), tacking long-form improv. It’s a 2015 performance at the Buenos Aires Jazz Festival. I’m particularly keen on the bassist, Mano Hurtado — he’s well amplified so you can pick up his agile sound.

The group explores briskly for a sustained period in the beginning, leading into a slow section, around the 10-minute mark, that’s still colorful and far from passive. Hurtado gets an early short solo that shows a lot of color, and I really dig his work on the straight jazz segment that starts around 19:00.

That segment leads into an explosive duet between Ledesma and drummer Javier Puyol. On the more serious side, there’s a regal movement around 40:00 that leads to a florid, elegant piano solo. The 57-minute performance culminates in a frenzied passage with the camera trained on Puyol, Ledesma, and Hurtado, the last two blowing especially hard.

It’s staggering to think there are so many musicians in the world pursuing creative music, many of them in corners I’ll never reach. That’s true of every kind of music, certainly, but this kind of improvised jazz — let alone the noisier kind, and noise-oriented improv — appeals to a smaller audience. That these lines of communication reach so far is a wonderful thing.

Improv from Buenos Aires

Agustí Fernandez and Pablo LedesmaEn vivo en el Festival de Jazz de Buenos Aires (Discos ICM, 2018)

fernandez-ledesmaPiano-sax improvisations recorded live, giving us a real-time peek into the mutual circling that goes on in a duo improv format.

In two of the five improvisations here — four mid-length pieces and a three-minute encore — Pablo Ledesma (sax) and Agustí Fernandez (piano) work from traditional playing techniques. Each one has a tentative start, with both players testing the waters, and builds into flurries of activity.”Improvisación #1″ opens with bright, painterly arcs, gently capturing your attention. It’s a good start to the album and, presumably, the concert.

Here’s a video of that piece:

I particularly like the narrative traced by “Improvisación #4.” It starts as a low-key conversation, painting in muted colors even as both players pick up speed. After a sustained dark tunnel of quavering sax and piano, they settle into a long stretch of quiet sound exploration.

Fernandez uses prepared piano and manual string-scraping to sometimes build a palette of abstract sounds, particularly on “Improvisación #2” and #3. Both feature stretches of more noise-based improvising, with Ledesma speaking in small shards of sound. “Improvisación #2” gets into a buzzing industsrial mode, a nice tension that’s sustained as ringing open notes start appearing from the piano.

This album comes from an Argentinian label called Discos ICM, which focuses on more mainstream jazz styles but welcomes an experimental excursion here and there. On the mainstream side, I’m liking the track “Ida y vuelta” from drummer René Gatica and his quintet; I’m also exploring the Naturaleza Práctica EPs from the (I’m guessing) drummer-led guitar trio Conjunto de Lassaletta.