The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
7th edition, London 2004

Richard Cook and Brian Morton:
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
7th edition, London 2004

Pago Libre

Named after the initial letters of original group members – who included
Lars Lindvall and Steve Goodman – this long-standing unit works in a
delicate and evocative avant-garde strain.

*** Pago Libre

Leo CD LR 354 Arkady Shilkloper (frhn, flhn, alphorn); Tscho Theissing (vn);
John Wolf Brennan (p); Daniele Patumi (b)
. 96.

***(*) Wake Up Call: Live In Italy

Leo CD LR 272 As above. 9/97.

*** Cinémagique

TCB 01112 As above. 01.

We would not wish to suggest in our brief summation that Pago Libre is in any way a purveyor of avant-garde lite, but the group’s unusual instrumentation and romantic sensibility give its work an appealing accessibility. Brennan is a master of this idiom, and his companions are absolutely like-minded.
The group’s first recording, Extempora, released on Splasc(h) in 1990, is currently unavailable. Pago Libre was originally released on Bellaphon and has since been reissued by Leo, a label that has long supported Brennan’s work. The same disc has also been available on L&R as Titles. All four members contribute material, but Theissing’s opening “Rochade“ is a stand-out track, cleverly pitched in a difficult, off-centre metre. “J.P.S. (& Carla)” is marked by some curious Hot Club effects, and there is a four-part “Stream of Consciousness” suite by Patumi which suggests he is no slouch as a writer either.
The other key track is the vibrant “Wake Up Call”, which became the title of a later Leo release. For much of its decade of operation, the group had gone undocumented in concert and at festivals, so a live album was an obvious and overdue decision. This was recorded to two-track at the Sol-Fest open-air festival in Sicily, which perhaps explains its bright and optimistic cast. Theissing’s title-piece gets the set under way with a gentle urgency. Brennan is featured on his own “Toccattacca”, a brillant sequence that includes Fibonacci series, palindromic inversions and a kind of sun-kissed serialism. Shilkloper switches to flugelhorn for both his own “Folk Song” and Brennan’s “Kabak”, the latter an unexpectedly funky theme that provides the record’s main climax.
Cinémagique is, as it sounds, a collection of imaginary soundtracks, but unlike most such projects this is not an excuse for fragmentary writing and bland fade-outs. Brennan once studied under film-music maestro Ennio Morricone, and some of those lessons may well be surfacing here in these moody interiors and poised mises-en-scène. Many of the pieces seem closer to modern classical music than to jazz, but the varied sonority is endlessly beguiling, and in “Synopsis” and “Suonatina“, Pago Libre has added a couple more evergreens to ist repertoire, to put alongside “Wake-Up Call” and “Rochade”.

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CH-6353 Weggis