Wednesday, April 05, 2006

portugal diary #2: trem azul / clean feed

Certainly the musical highlight of my trip (along with a live 1973 video of a slim Stevie Wonder singing a slightly sped-up, very intense and muscular "Higher Ground"). The day before we left for Lisbon, I remembered the store's existence, scrambled onto its website and quickly jotted the address into my phone. As it turned out, the store was just down the street from M's appartment. I'd first heard about it through Dennis Gonzalez: his albums on Clean Feed and his accounts of playing in the Trem Azul store.

Despite being situated below street level, the store is bright, airy, capacious and still feels new (it opened less than 18 months ago). Thus, it's surprisingly comfortable and high-tech for a specialist store that's made for jazz lovers, by jazz lovers (and musicians). Besides the prominent display devoted to the latest Clean Feed releases, there's a vast range of albums, both new and used, vinyl and CD, that, collectively, feel like they've been handpicked by a connaisseur. Which they probably have. Clean Feed's catalogue provides a good idea of the items displayed with the most pride: Cecil Taylor and BYG vinyl, Hamid Drake's debut album as leader, Cooper-Moore's wood-encased box set, to name a few I remember. You can listen to any CD comfortably seated in one of two sofas at the back of the store, or maybe the clerk will play it on the store stereo for you. A concert was held there while we were in Lisbon, but unfortunately I couldn't make it.

Combine an impeccable selection, stylistic oecumenism (from ye olde Blue Notes to the first Erstwhiles I've ever seen in the flesh; I'm forced to admit that those Keith Rowe covers look great), a friendly and helpful staff (who introduced me to the Swedish Moserobie label) and reasonable prices (maximum 16 euros for a single disc, I think) and you've got an addictive, winning formula. It's the kind of place where not only do you feel that you can buy music almost blindfolded, there's also a sense of supporting this fantastic venture. It's a mandatory stop for anyone visiting Lisbon.

While there, I got:

Lisbon Improvisation Players - Live_Lx Meskla (Clean Feed)
Zé Eduardo Unit - A Jazzar no Zeca – A Música de José Afonso (Clean Feed)
Gerry Hemingway Quartet - The Whimbler (Clean Feed)

Excellent representatives of the swinging free jazz (or post-free jazz) aesthetic which has become one of jazz's default settings. It's usefully described here by Ellery Eskelin:

"Eskelin brings some of free jazz's audacity to bop and some of bop's harmonic complexity to free jazz ... 'I grew up with that harmonic thing,' says Eskelin ... 'It's easy for me to go back into that. I don't have to make an artificial choice about sounding as different as possible. I like to think my sound has many things in it. Phrasing, juxtaposing textures--that's more indicative of free music in general--there's nothing really new about that. But for me, there's a certain blend. I like ingredients from both, where harmonic awareness and ideas about phrasing come together.'"

And from the used bin:

Michael Moore Quintet - Home Game (Ramboy)
KD's Basement Party - Sketches of Belgium (De Werf)

The latter is the very first De Werf release back in 1993. I got it because I'm reviewing the recently released 10th anniversary reunion concert and wanted to be able to compare the two.