Album: Chão Maior – Drawing Circles

Twistedsoul - Chao Maior.

Portugal has long been making its name in the European creative music scene, if anyone looks at the catalog of Lisbon-based Clean Feed records one will see an impressive list of notable names within the global creative improvised scene. No stranger to Clean Feed, Lisbon-based trumpeter, artist, and composer Yaw Tembe has organised numerous notable projects, the latest being Chão Maior who’s debut album Drawing Circles has recently been released by Revolve Records.

Chão Maior, meaning the greater ground is a bass-less sextet that at times sounds like a big band, recalling Kenny Wheeler’s music for large and small ensembles with its soaring trumpet melodies supporting Leonor Arnaut’s solid and driving sung melodies. Operating as a tight unit the horn section creates syncopation, grooves, and harmonies while Norberto Lobo’s unique voice on guitar adds his signature blend of whimsical and saudade, and the drums add a contrasting post-rock edge that makes for a mixture of mature yet playful and nostalgic cinematic scenes in the vein of Jaga Jazzist with the dramatic aridness of the landscapes on the Iberian Peninsula.

Twistedsoul - Chao Maior

The album follows series of circles and steps, Circulo 2 opens with tender chords and lyrics in the vein of Paul Motion’s Windmills of your mind with colourful and yearning horn harmonies accentuating the lyrics ‘all around I see, circles that repeat endlessly’. Breaking into a cyclical head nodding grove that echoes the trance of Joshua Abrahams’s Natural Information Society. A trumpet solo develops over evolving guitar arpeggios, brooding in tight clustered figures that expands and leaves one with a kind of vertigo, taken along with the narrative and wondering what happens next, growling while a melody grows and unity is found again. A brief excursion from the collective improvisation that dominates this album.

Slow motion melodies float and stretch out over drones of collective improvisation and extended technique that create the textures of one large pipe organ beyond the proposed instrumentation
giving one a break from the tighter composed sections. Full of tension and release, impeccable arrangements and free playing this album is full of melodies that will make you want to sing along, travel somewhere warm and introspective.

Drawing Circles is out now via Revolve Records – buy from Bandcamp.

Ralph Smit

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