Zarabatana with Bernardo Álvares, Carlos Godinho, Norberto Lobo & Yaw Tembe
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mestre André
Released February 28th, 2020
Portuguese improvisers Zarabatana seem to have wandered far enough that the jazz label simply won’t do any more. A Moondoggy mix of percussion and double bass sets the pace while a spiralling echoey trumpet and knotted guitar hammer away on the opening track. ‘Corno de ganso’, which considering the aggression of its opening aptly translates as ‘Goose Horn’. Within a breezy seven minutes though, the quartet take the tune from noisy ritual to delicate rumination, the players even mimicking charmed bird song. Perhaps inevitably, the trumpet of Yaw Tembe ends up feeling like a lead vocal – but the background is buzzing with weirdo effects pedal sounds, lilting percussive flurries, hand percussion rhythms, and scraped strings and cymbals making this a thoroughly global take on improv. Final track ‘Estepe by estepe’ sees the group moaning atop a rugged guitar lick, drifting out to sea like a sinking car with the driver passed out on the horn, epitomising the bizarrely rich imagery the group manage to summon from a sound so overflowing with varying cultural signifiers as to ultimately signify little specific beyond rhythm and colour. The emotion flows from this improv, while maintaining a heterogeneous sound that makes its origins intriguingly difficult to triangulate. I’m off to dig deep into the Portuguese improv scene.