"EL EQUILIBRIO SECRETO DE LAS COSAS"
Story and about the music: Young and active Argentine drummer makes leap as leader with adventuresome album
As many jazz scenes, even in larger cities like New York and Chicago, the pool of like-minded creative folks making music together can sometimes be a bit musically incestuous, as Juan Bayon, Nicolas Boccanera and Sebastian Greschuk appear on Axel Filip’s El Equilibrio Secreto de Las Cosas. One way to describe this album is “journey / adventure music”.
The episodic and eclectic character of the first track, ‘El Olvido’ is nothing more than a continuation of an Argentine jazz lineage that knew how to take a "melting pot" characteristic of both the genre and the city itself. As the track progresses, doors are opened that does not completely close again, opening with an intense and almost arachnid ostinato on the piano reminiscent of Alberto Ginastera, an Argentine classical music composer, over which a contrapuntal melody of the contrabass is developed. The poetry of Camila Nebbia, saxophonist and poetess of turn, with melancholy and almost tango airs, generates a dark atmosphere that oppresses with uneasiness. But suffering does not last forever. After leaving the bass in solitude, the whole ensemble is given entrance, changing the whole face to the music, with a slow but full groove that gives rise to a much more melodic voice in this instance, with the trumpet and saxophone playing with staccato ostinatos more typical of R&B and Soul, perfect for a female voice in front. Just when we think that this texture begins to disintegrate, with the disappearance and interspersed of the instruments, we are run over by the entrance of the complete ensemble again, in perfect balance and with a hook almost typical of pop. The trumpet solo of the great Sebastian Greschuk, who takes us by the hand through a landscape that was constantly changing but for some reason already familiar. As familiar as the return of the ostinato on the piano at the end of the song, giving rise to a melodic reexposure, to leave us situated in a landscape we knew and saw transformed in the six and a half minutes that opened the album.
The second track is ‘Débiles Operaciones del Sueño’, whose origin refers to the combination of intensive reading of the work of Carlos Castañeda, a dream seemed to transcend the dreamscape, and reading also "Ahi pero donde, como" by Julio Cortazar. It begins with an introduction of trumpet and saxophone plus piano, which deploys a long vamp on which the melodies of the winds sail. The melody of the first section leads to a ternary rhythm in which different rhythms and lines are superimposed, and then an introspective and at the same time intense improvisation of the tenor sax of Camila Nebbia. The velvety voice of Mariana Iturri runs on almost “Spinettean” tunes (bassist/singer Luis Alberto Spinneta), which take us through this dreamy fog. A plane in which several planes coexist, like dreams
inside dreams, going through long melodic arcs to frenetic pianistic altercations that propel us. The contrast between more or less percussive elements such as the piano and the percussion itself, and the aforementioned velvety timbres of the voice and the saxophone and the trumpet in combination are key to these "operations", with a single scoop of making us reach the chorus and literally wake up ("you get up, how weird is it!", says the chorus), making us sing in each of them, another feature more typical of pop that also coexists in Filip's music.
The next track is "Maebi", and is built from a pattern heard in West African percussion music, in which two accented feels are played; 7/8 and 6/8 simultaneously, and a pulse of a quarter note and another of dotted eighth note exist. Definitely the track with the most “body motion”, percussive above all things, and with a duration of just over three minutes, it’s a track that does not give up. Making less use of silence than in the previous ones (not to mention any use), with a lot more chronometric density, the complicated rhythmic framework does not complicate the listener at all, but it raises a structure where everything passes quickly, almost like a flood the senses, but with the final result of getting up from the chair and getting out to dance. Except for free improvisation in the drums, it’s a through-composed tune, to which the rest of the instruments are then added to play the final melody.
If ‘Maebi’ was a party, ‘Rachita’ is the hangover the next day. With a slow tempo, almost as if it cost money to raise the feet when walking and every beam of light crossed our heads, a solemn voice of vidala (an Argentine folkloric rhythm) wanders on the darkest chords in the lower register of the piano. This subject forces us to descend to another state, much more contemplative. While gradually adding elements, little by little the general timbre is clarified, with the piano rising to the higher register, the saxophone picking up the melody and the contrabass playing with harmonics, accompanied by patterns of clapping. Finally, the theme ends in the solo by bassist Juan Bayon, on a section that seems to accelerate and decelerate, and ending with a coda duo between the piano and the double bass with bow. The lyrics of this song are about the bad luck that sometimes takes the reins of our lives, and the lyrical-musical relationship is very clear in this case. The album's second to last track is ‘Retirada’ (or ‘retreat’), is "an attempt to elucidate the meaning of things, and the internal struggle of forces that sometimes occur in each one of us", in the words of the composer. The track was born from a hocket, a technique typical of medieval polyphonic music, but in a measure of amalgam full of syncopations, which is developed throughout the song. It is not the first nor the last time that Filip mixes musical genres in this way on the album
While the syncopation of the piano wobbles us to the sides, the melody of the voice keeps us in our lane. The insistence of the main theme is constant, until the solo of Mariana Iturri, with a scat that adds even more references to this breeding ground for new expressions. Both the intensity and the density grow, and following this line, Nicolas Boccanera joins in with a piano solo, in a subtle and elegant way, until the debauchery becomes inevitable with the frenetic interventions of the tenor sax and trumpet in the coda, adding canons, imitations, and counterpoints to the theme that seems to have condensed several techniques of different genres of more than half a millennium of music, going from the birth of polyphony to modern jazz. "Thousands of years to return to the same place, memories of the future" sings Iturri.
Almost like a wink, the opening bass line seems to be a complement rather than an imitation to the piano line that opens ‘Retirada’, the previous tune, thus offering a sensation of closure and tremendously satisfactory Gestalt form, where the whole clearly it is more than just the sum of the parts. Without knowing whether it is a conscious or unconscious decision, ‘No me cascoteen el rancho’ begins to close the album that passes with absolute fluency and without any parade that prevents the listener from setting everything up on each track individually, even though each one of them shines autonomously for their personality. The theme is built on a bass line in 11/4, on which the melody floats, with contrapuntal interventions of the trumpet and the saxophone. Being definitely the most jazz theme of the album in an improvisatory sense, (there are more than seven minutes in which the vast majority is improvisation), there are moments when Boccanera and Greschuk transpire inspiration, with an incredible performance in piano solos and trumpet that respectively surf on vamps of 11/4 and 10/4 with an ease that frankly amazes. Mixing concise melodic contours, closed musical objects and even chromatic hints to a sound more bebop, each of the interventions of the soloists is clear and guides the ear with ease, without making an unnecessary technical boast, but dialoguing with everything that is already present in the musical universe of Filip. Choirs of voices are added at the end of Greschuk’s solo giving it air to "upbeat motown", to lead back to the vocal melody of Iturri that acts almost like a chorus that takes us to the end of the song, finalizing the album.
(Matthew Golombisky - ears&eyes records)
Axel Filip’s debut album as leader was released on indie label, ears&eyes Records on July 26th 2019 in both CD and digital formats.
Axel Filip - drums/compositions/lyrics
Mariana Iturri - voice
Sebastian Greschuk - trumpet
Camila Nebbia - tenor saxophone
Nicolas Boccanera - piano
Juan Bayon - contrabass
Recorded, mixed & mastered by Pablo Lopez Ruiz at Fort Music Studios in Buenos Aires
All music and lyrics by Axel Filip, except recited text in ‘El Olvido’ by Camila Nebbia
Album art/design by Daniel Rivas