Delightful jazz from Portugal
It is what it sounds like: West Coast jazz. It’s probably worth pointing out, though, that the music found on Pedro Neves’ sophomore album comes from the west coast of Portugal, not the United States.
You’d never guess that this is Iberian jazz, though, just from listening to it. There’s no trace of fado that dark, smokey music of Lisbon. Not a guitar can be found, nor a single vocal.
Instead, with a light, lithe playing style that sounds like a cross between Monty Alexander’s Caribbean-infused bop and the bright, accessible melodicism of the late Vince Guaraldi, pianist Neves’ new album is a fun, listenable slice of straight-ahead jazz.
The music on “05:21" is sunny and upbeat without sacrificing any artistic muscle. Think early ’60s Cannonball Adderly or late ’60s Les McCann. It’s a sparkling reminder that jazz doesn’t have to be austere or severe to be intellectual, that melody is no crime.
Neves wrote all seven tracks here, and they range from the infectious opening track “Going Home” to the Brubeck-tinged “Busy Mind” and “Something Happened Along the Way,” from the percussive “Almost There” to the urgent title track.
“Going Home” is an instantly familiar old friend, with a short but insistent riff that reminds of Miles or Sonny Rollins in their heyday. “Busy Mind” evokes the “Peanuts” soundtracks of Guaraldi, with its percolating melody and uplifting spirit.
On the closing track, “Time to Go,” Neves dials back his own playing in favor of bassist Miguel Angelo and drummer Leandro Leonet, giving them most of the lead and using his spare piano playing almost as punctuation for much of the song.
Throughout, Neves shows himself a technically superb pianist who shines in a trio setting. Angelo and Leonet provide a solid foundation behind him the result is a small gem of original jazz from an unexpected locale.
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