Richard Cook and Brian Morton:
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
7th edition, London 2004
Named after the initial letters of original group members – who
Lars Lindvall and Steve Goodman – this long-standing unit works
delicate and evocative avant-garde strain.
*** Pago Libre
Leo CD LR 354 Arkady Shilkloper (frhn, flhn, alphorn); Tscho Theissing
John Wolf Brennan (p); Daniele Patumi (b). 96.
***(*) Wake Up Call: Live In Italy
Leo CD LR 272 As above. 9/97.
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
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
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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