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.
If at sunset you go out somewhere on a rough terrain and shout “Earn !!!” loudly, without embarrassment, then all the surrounding animals will turn their exclamations to this. It is in such a wild and somewhat primitive way that the Portuguese quartet Zarabatana attracts attention. At his performances, his musicians even put on colorful, ritual-styled masks – which perfectly describes their music. It’s funny, but in his other projects, trumpeter Yau Tembé, double bass player Bernando Alvares, guitarist Norberto Lobo and percussionist Carlos Godinho always adhere strictly to the flair of academic music and engage in quiet improvisations for Creative Sources label. Zarabatana is for them a wonderful outlet in which they can musically realize all their trips.
Zarabatana’s third album, “Cum Raio”, is significantly different from its predecessors – guitarist Norberto Lobo joined the group for his recording, bringing psychedelic stories and throbbing feedbacks to the sound. And if before the trio sounded very cave and muddy, now rhythm and speed have appeared in their music. Having finally found her sound, Zarabatana sounded even more distinctive. This is perfectly audible in the opening song “Corno de Ganso”, where Tembé’s trumpet and Lobo’s guitar, jokingly interrupting each other as if imitating goose cries, while the rhythm section holds a completely non-jazz tribal groove.
The percussionist Godinho refuses to play with his sticks at all, wielding with only one hand so that finger punches on the drum membrane are audible. Throughout the entire album, Zarabatana goes further into primitive mysticism, the apotheosis of which becomes the epic ten-minute epic “Olho da Centopeia” – a work that can hardly even be called a native of jazz.
In its new album, the Portuguese quartet is as close as possible to something original – it is not in vain that “Zarabatana” in Indian means a wind gun with arrows, thereby securing the reputation of one of the main modern tribal jazz groups on the planet.