HUMANIZATION 4TET “Humanization 4tet”



Capa do discoClean Feed 105 cd


Luis Lopes – electric guitar
Rodrigo Amado – tenor saxophone
Aaron González – bass
Stefan González – drum

Cd track’s:

1. Cristadingo
2. Paso (for Pier Paolo Pasolini)
3. Princípio da incerteza (for Stephen Hawking)
4. Big Love (for Joe Giardullo)
5. Long march for Frida Kahlo
6. 4 Small Steps

Release Information:

All songs composed by Luís Lopes

Recorded May 1st, 2007 by Luís Delgado at Cha Cha Cha Studios, Lisbon. Mixed and mastered by Jim Clouse at Park West Studios, Brooklyn NY, September 20th, 2007. Produced by Luís Lopes. Executive production by Trem Azul. Design by Travassos. Photography by Rodrigo Amado



Another treasure trove of music is to be found in Clean Feed recording artist Luis Lopes. The guitarist’s first recording even surprised label chief Pedro Costa as he artfully explains in the liner notes. Who knew? Like so many of Clean Feed’s discs, American listeners discover new sounds and new musicians with nearly every release. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the early exploration into jazz. Instead of Miles and Coltrane leading to Hank Mobley and Johnny Coles, listeners can now discover superb Portuguese and European players. Such is the case with the self-described Humanization 4tet.

A blindfold test might place this music somewhere inside today’s Chicago sound. Lopes’ writing and his quartet could almost be mistaken for a Jeff Parker-meets-Ken Vandermark, as the tenor saxophone/guitar interaction of Rodrigo Amado and Lopes orients you into the free/composed styles heard in the windy city of jazz. The opening “Cristadingo” verifies this with a muscular workout, Amado blowing heavy notes over Lopes’ sinewy playing. The saxophonist has been gaining quite a reputation for his work in the Lisbon Improvisation Players and with players like Ken Filiano, Steve Swell, Joe Giardullo and Paal Nilssen-Love.

Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez, the bass and drums playing sons of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, back up the front line. Up to the task at hand, they drive “Paso,” an open-form tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini, from their introduction, a kind of marching ball of energy that gives way to the tentative saxophone and very outer-space tunings of Lopes as he dials in foreign frequencies.

Elsewhere the guitar/sax unison walk is utilized as an introduction to “Principio de Incertesza,” before the four open the song for a wandering bit of freedom. “Long March” features an extended bass opening into a measured procession, Lopes ringing simple notes from his guitar as the piece builds into a simmering stew. The final track “4 Small Steps” bites into a bit more aggressive take on rock meets jazz”  Mark Corroto / AllAboutJazz

“Una pulsazione ipnotica con la cavata del contrabbasso che aggancia subito l’attenzione dell’orecchio, il ribollio della batteria che swinga libera, ed il groove di fondo è servito. Poi entra il tenore, ruvido quanto basta, note in economia per frasi suggerite, frastagliate, penetranti; infine la chitarra, elettrica ma dolce, avvolgente e naive, fuori da schemi e modelli riconoscibili. Si presenta così l’Umanization 4tet, senza clamori, senza effetti pirotecnici, ma con un suono ben definito, un approccio compositivo originale, un fare un poco ruspante, le idee chiarissime, da formazione navigata. Ed invece sono all’album di debutto. Il leader portoghese Luis Lopes è ottimo compositore, chitarrista anomalo, gran assemblatore di talenti, solista maggiormente interessato al risultato complessivo piuttosto che a mettere in evidenza le proprie abilità o le singole voci.

In “Paso (for Pier Paolo Pasolini)“ si mette al servizio della lunga improvvisazione del tenorista Rodrigo Amado, creando macchie timbriche minime ma perfette nell’esaltare i delicati equilibri. In “Principio da incerteza (for Stephen Hawking)“ attraversa il brano con linee dall’andamento irregolare, utilizzando una tecnica di tipo puntillistico con reminiscenze di Derek Bailey. Mentre in “Long March (for Frida Kahlo)“ sono le venature country-folk alla Bill Frisell a prendere il sopravvento.

Detto dei fratelli Gonzalez, figli del grande trombettista Dennis, coppia ritmica affiatata, mobilissima, elastica, implacabile, non si può non sottolineare la grande personalità del sassofonista Amado. In possesso di un timbro d’altri tempi, che si lanci in improvvisazioni furiose come nella conclusiva “4 Small Steps“, o che costruisca frasi dall’architettura ineccepibile, Amado conserva una musicalità, un senso melodico, una souplesse esecutiva assai rare nei sassofonisti odierni che operano nei territori del jazz più creativo. Gruppo da seguire con grande attenzione” ∗∗∗∗ (in 5)  Vincenzo Roggero / All About Jazz Italy

The debut disc of Lisbon guitarist Luis Lopes continues in the Clean Feed tradition of Portuguese-American freebop combos, something that is fast becoming a hallmark of the label’s aesthetic. Lopes is joined by tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, a fast-rising star of European improvisation, and the rhythm team of bassist Aaron Gonzalez and drummer Stefan Gonzalez, sons of Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis who has already ensconced himself in the Lisbon scene. It’s ambitious for a leader debut to be a program entirely original tunes, even in a seemingly post-everything milieu such as we have today, but the guitarist’s written lines acquit themselves well, not least of which because of the chosen supporting cast.

It’s apt that the brothers Gonzalez were chosen as the rhythm team – after all, Lopes has a rock pedigree (whatever that means anymore), which fits well with the punk-weaned pair of Yells At Eels fame. Their “rock” rhythms are dissective, acoustic tides on the parallel slink of the opening “Cristadingo,” a brilliant minor-key call of gruff tenor and gauzy plectra bells. As Amado digs in his heels, the band becomes a power trio, Lopes laying out as a plastic three-way volley is tossed. If Amado is a searcher in the keening vein of a saxophone preacher, the muted, behind-the-beat and wholly introspective worrying plucks and dissociative blues that the guitarist spins out is of a different quest altogether. They’re both inward, but by nature Lopes is far less exuberant than Amado – McLaughlin and Ray Russell he is not. Rather, he appears like a ghostly Moorish apparition in the middle of a blues-rock solo as minimalist arpeggios appear, only to be broken into long-legged chunks and faded away. Alternately, the grungy slabs he churns out in agitated drops nearly suspends time on “4 Small Steps.” Rarely does he comp behind the soloist as would a traditional guitarist; if he doesn’t lay out completely, swirls of subtle feedback accent Amado’s tenor, as on “Paso,” drawing out the reedman’s phrases into, alternately, long tones or the contrast of sputtering staccato. Of course, it’s never that simple – there’s a constant give and take, a constant play of form between smooth and sharp, long and short, a constellation that’s always in motion. “Big Love” is an homage to Joe Giardullo, a line that would sound interesting translated to it’s dedicatee’s sinewy unaccompanied soprano, but with Amado in charge of solo duties, it’s a series of muscular, brusque blats and lofty false-fingering. It’s a curious thing that Lopes doesn’t always choose to solo on his compositions, that he takes a backseat to democracy, and at times I wished for more obvious solo entreaties despite his surreal presence being felt. By virtue of his compositions and the tack he takes when he’s in the spotlight, unaccompanied Luis Lopes would be a treat. But he’s brought heavy company, and this is an intriguing and meaty debut”  Clifford Allen / Bagatelen

Most readers will be familiar with all the players on The Humanization 4tet with the exception of the leader himself. Part of the vibrant young Portuguese scene, self-taught guitarist (and longtime music fanatic) Lopes has enlisted the excellent saxophonist Amado and the rhythm section from Yells at Eels to play a session that combines the vir¬tues of Free Bop, harmolodics, and Vandermark-ish genre play. The Gonzalez brothers open up the record with a vigorous shuffle, and Amado charges forward with big-toned playing that recalls Tony Malaby. The leader, once his chance comes up, is a weird one—and I say that with admiration. He plays with a clean tone, but he favors a middle pickup position so that the tone is slightly more tart than is customary. He slurs, he scurries, he stops in unexpected places to flail at a single note, and he plays waaaaaay behind the beat to create a most interesting kind of energy. Good stuff! He sounds especially compelling on the somewhat ominous lope of “Long March,” where he combines odd stairstep phrases with sudden glisses and the like (weirdly like Monk on some level). The band works nicely in and out of time on these six tunes, often wisely breaking down into solos and duos (Aaron Gonzalez sounds especially hot on “Cristadingo”). And they’re a versatile lot too, comfortable in the bustling Free playing of “Paso” (pairing grainy upper-register tenor and sustained guitar lines), in the staggered funk of “Principio da Incerteza” (spacious and airy, almost like an essay in non-phrasing), and digging into plain old riffing, as on “Big Love.” It’s a fine record, and a nice introduction to a quirky, winning guitarist”  Jason Bivins / Cadence Magazine

O espírito de abertura à criatividade e à comunicação entre os músicos, de forma livre, espontânea e intensa é uma das grandes virtudes da Jazz, senão mesmo toda a sua essência. Pois bem, é mesmo essa essência que aqui ficou registada, em Humanization 4tet. Um álbum do guitarrista Luís Lopes, que convida, a partir de composições suas, a uma sessão de improvisação totalmente livre. Esta é uma forma priviligiada em que ressalta toda a personalidade e qualidades dos músicos que o acompanham. O saxofonista Rodrigo Amado, assenta em terreno familiar, não apenas por estar a tocar entre amigos, mas pelo estilo livre, em si, que já o trata por tu. Continua a mostrar-se em grande forma e com o seu habitual fulgor gravoso habitual do barítono, mas aqui, com o tenor. Também os irmãos Aaron (contrabaixo) e Stefan Gonzalez (bateria), seguindo as passadas do pai, o referenciado trompetista, Dennis Gonzalez, mostram estar em casa, neste contexto de liberdade. A linha de improvisação de Luís Lopes revela-se num estilo de conversação curioso, com alguns toques minimalistas, rockeiros, e com uma carga de blues que consolida alguma sensualidade e o groove caloroso desta verdadeira humanização. A não perder!”  Jornal Letras / Sofia Freire

I had never heard of guitarist Luis Lopes, and kudos to Clean Feed again for giving a lesser known musician a chance, because he deserves it. His Humanization 4Tet further consists of Rodrigo Amado, whose sax-playing and sense of music I’ve already recommended before, and with Aaron Gonzalez on bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums, two young musicians with great skills and even more ideas. Lopes’s playing is straight-forward, with a bluesy electric sound, more focused on delivering great music than on pyrotechnics or avant-garde excursions, and that’s the overall nature of this album. The compositions are nice, with great themes and especially nice improvisations. Lopes is really in full service of the band he assembled here, as self-effacing as can be, leaving lots of room for bass, drums and sax. On the second track, dedicated to Pier Paolo Pasolini, his only contribution is to add eery feedback sounds and colorings of sustained notes. The third track, dedicated to physicist Stephen Hawking and called “Principio Da Incerteza”, starts with a long and strong unison theme, and in line with the title, it brings changing rhythms and tempi, even to the extent that all rhythm, structure and melody dissapear for a powerful open improvisation. Again, Lopes adds sparse notes, but well-chosen, with the right timbre and sound, offering depth to the sax, bass and drums that really carry the tune, that gradually gathers momentum again, leading back to the original theme. “Big Love” is dedicated to Joe Giardullo, which is an excellent idea by the way, and it brings a more abstract energetic melody, which, as on the other tracks immediately leads into a sax solo, which is also a good idea because Amado truly is a great sax player. His tone is warm, his phrasing complex and focused. And what about Lopes? Well, at the climax of Amado’s solo, somewhere half-way the tune, when bass and drums have propulsed the sax into higher space, Lopes again adds support, by offering mute echoes and little sounds of admiration, enriching the whole without taking the lead voice. “The Long March”, starts with a long bass intro, joined by the drums once a fixed, and indeed march-like vamp has been established, and both sax and guitar join for the nice melodic theme that seems to end with an open question mark. Lopes then plays a solo. It is slow. It is full of openness. It is precise. It is deep. It is beautiful. And the way Amado takes over is brilliant, joining on the same note, extending it and then moving on, intensifying the piece a little, but not too much, moving it into more extravert regions. The last track starts in a totally improvised context, with all four musicians interacting in a hectic way, Amado full-voiced, Lopes with muted distorted guitar sounds, breaking into yet another unison theme, as a lead-in for Stefan Gonzalez to give a fierce drums solo, joined by Amado with a no less fierce sax solo, and then the bass joins, with the guitar adding shredded muted heavy notes, slowing down the massive sounds, bringing the guitar back to normal tones, with again bluesy, very emotional playing, very direct, sounding uncomplicated but again, precise. The strange thing about Lopes’s music is that despite the fact that he clearly has a free mind, moving the band into very free territory at times, that he sticks to the usual intro theme, then improv, then repeat theme to end, as if that kind of structure is needed or required. This is a great and stylistically balanced CD, by a musician who deserves more attention, and one who certainly deserves the prize for the most self-effacing participation on his own release”  Stef Gjissels / Free jazz Blog

“Another enlightening and exciting release from Clean Feed. It too often goes unnoticed that effect that great smaller recording labels have on the history of music. Of course, everyone knows about labels like Blue Note. But Arista Freedom, Black Saint, and Strata-East among many other labels were frequently the only venues where important artists could go to record exactly the music they wanted to play. At this point in time, Portugese label Clean Feed is serving that function. Their recordings frequently serve to introduce American ears to European players of note. Recently they have started to record great but lesser known American players like Mark Whitecage. This release was an instant purchase for me because of the presence of Rodrigo Amado on tenor. He is the mainstay of the Lisbon Improv Players and an important (and constantly improving/expanding)youngish sax player. The leader of this quartet is Luis Lopes who plays superb (and I believe weirdly tuned at times) guitar and wrote all the compositions. The rhythm section is Aaron Gonzalez (bass) and Stefan Gonzalez (drums). They are the sons of trumpter Dennis Gonzalez. To my ears, Stefan is particularly impressive, doing all sorts of odd little time things in an unending quiet stream of invention. Since you have samples to listen to I will not describe the music too much except to say that it is muscular and inventive. Check them out. And look for the other Clean Feed releases on Amazon. If you have trouble finding some of them at reasonable prices, drop me an email or go to the Clean Feed web site”   ∗∗∗∗∗  (in 5)  Greg Taylor / Amazon

Declaração de interesses: Rodrigo Amado e Luís Lopes são meus amigos e a faixa de abertura do CD chama-se “Cristadingo”, dedicada a uma colega fotógrafa da Ou seja, à desde logo uma conexão emocional que me liga a este disco, pelo que, desde já, peço desculpa pela eventual falta de isenção…

O que apresenta este quarteto luso-americano? Uma secção rítmica poderosa (bateria e contrabaixo por conta dos filhos do trompetista Dennis González,   seus parceiros no projecto familiar Yells At Eels) que fornece uma base sólida sobre a qual a guitarra de Luís e o saxofone de Rodrigo se passeiam com à-vontade. Os discursos dos solistas são bastante diferentes: Luís Lopes tem um fraseado muito marcado, herdeiro da tradição jazzística mais profunda, mas alimentado com a energia do rock; Rodrigo Amado demonstra especial prazer ao enveredar em improvisações incendiárias com o seu saxofone, sem nunca se afastar muito de uma matriz jazz bem definida.

Os temas, todos originais do líder/ guitarrista, funcionam como âncoras (por vezes demasiado presas, na verdade), e é precisamente quando as âncoras levantam que a música realmente descola – as composições, não sendo brilhantes, são eficazes e funcionam principalmente como veículo para a improvisação. Como nota mais negativa, os momentos em que bateria e contrabaixo ficam a sós acabam por soar baços e pouco originais.

Luís Lopes tem no saxofonista um bom parceiro de aventuras, mas merecia uma dose de maior criatividade por parte da secção rítmica. Nunca é fácil reduzir um disco a apenas uma palavra, mas talvez “força” seja a mais indicada para resumir de forma directa o que acontece. Este álbum serve como um bom cartão de apresentação, para a cena jazz lusa (e não só), de um guitarrista com uns personalidade musical muito particular”  Nuno Catarino /

Até 31 de Dezembro ainda pode acontecer muita coisa, mas nada impedirá a estreia do Humanization 4tet de ser um dos discos do ano, no que ao jazz português diz respeito. Ainda que o mérito não seja exclusivamente português, já que a guitarra de Luís Lopes e o saxofone tenor de Rodrigo Amado têm a companhia do contrabaixo de Aaron Gonzalez e da bateria de Stefan Gonzalez, ambos americanos. Os dois Gonzalez são filhos do ilustre trompetista Dennis Gonzalez, cuja carreira recente tem vindo a ser amplamente documentada pela Clean Feed, e possuem uma experiência musical eclética, que inclui passagem pelo punk. As suas múltiplas influências fundem-se numa secção rítmica que alia o músculo do rock à flexibilidade do jazz. A abertura de horizontes é também característica de Rodrigo Amado e Luís Lopes. O primeiro tanto navega sem mapa na improvisação livre – nomeadamente com os Lisbon Improvisation Players – como se aventura no hip-hop mutante dos Rocky Marsiano. Quanto ao líder, não é guitarrista para jurar apenas por Wes Montgomery e é admirador confesso de Jimi Hendrix e Jimmy Page, dos Led Zeppelin.

Da confluência destas quatro mentes nasceu uma música tensa. Angustiada e de cores sombrias, que evoca, nos trechos de groove regular, o mundo sonoro dessa obra-prima negligenciada que é pariah’s Pariah, de Gary Thomas. Embora seja autor de todos os temas, Luís Lopes reserva para si mesmo um papel discreto, deixando o primeiro plano aos seus parceiros, sobretudo a Rodrigo Amado, que surge em grande forma. O tema de abertura, “Cristadingo”, possui um ímpeto avassalador e poucos terão coragem de interromper o fluxo sonoro antes do final de “4 Small Steps”, o tema que encerra este CD. E muitos anotarão o nome de Luís Lopes na lista dos nomes a vigiar de perto” ∗∗∗∗∗ (em 5)  José Carlos Fernandes / Time out Lisboa

“The Clean Feed label is as remarkable for the Portuguese musicians it has brought to light as it is for its numerous recordings of international musicians and various combinations of the two. This is the first recording for guitarist Lopes and it’s an arresting interesting debut. He’s joined here by tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado and a rhythm section composed of Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez (Dennis’s sons) on bass and drums. The style is essentially free bop, though it’s sometimes delivered with a certain abstract detachment. That’s a distinguishing mark of Lopes, who often sets himself up as a foil to the intense directionality of Amado. The opening “Cristadingo” embodies that abstraction, with Amado up first. Lopes’ solo seems to consist of micro-figures, abstract bits of electronic blues and traces of scales. Lopes can be most impressive when he’s almost silent, using the faintest sustained feedback tones to complement Amado on “Paso.” There’s something of a Monk-like dance in “Principio da Incerteza,” dedicated to Stephen Hawking, while Amado’s over-the-top tenor playing distinguishes “Big Love.” The most developed group work comes on “Long March,” a work that begins with quiet determination in Aaron Gonzalez’s bass with a strong ostinato that carries through extended solos by both Lopes and Amado. It’s a subtle debut, and while Amado is the more aggressive soloist, there’s a sense of structural resilience throughout that’s definitely of Lopes’ making”  Stuart Broomer / Signal to Noise

“Don’t know much about Lopes — a couple of google matches appear to be false positives. This one plays guitar, is probably Portuguese, wrote all the pieces on his first album. The other players are slightly more well known: Aaron Gonzalez (double bass) and Stefan Gonzalez (drums) are sons of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez. Rodrigo Amado is a Portuguese tenor saxophonist who’s put together a number of solid albums, both under his own name and with Lisbon Improvisation Players (which has been known to include Gonzalez père). Amado’s full-voiced honking dominates here, but a section where the guitar leads takes on much the same melodic shape, so I figure the guitarist is always pushing this music along even when he’s not conspicuous. Another clue is that this is probably Amado’s strongest outing yet, mostly because he rarely gets a chance to let up” B+(***)  Tom Hull

Dicen que unos buenos acompañantes no tienen precio y, en este caso, eso se ajusta completamente a la realidad. Luis Lopes debuta con un disco muy interesante y lo hace de la mano de un grupo que le hace quitarse a uno el sombrero. Aparte de los siempre interesantes hermanos González (hijos del gran trompetista Dennis González y sección rítmica en varios de sus proyectos), el fantástico saxofonista Rodrigo Amado llena de elocuencia los temas de Lopes, dando un plus de calidad a un disco muy a tener en cuenta.

Luis Lopes, guitarrista de técnica correcta, ideas claras y salubre falta de complejos, deja la mayor parte del espacio solista al saxofonista portugués, que serpentea confiado sobre las vías que construyen los González. El guitarrista llega incluso a quitarse de en medio en muchos momentos, decisión personal y nunca justificada por un posible entorpecimiento que no llega a darse. Su guitarra trabaja en todo momento con líneas, frases y texturas creadas con mucho saber hacer y no demasiados efectos pero, curiosamente, Lopes no llega a acompañar o a expresarse mediante acordes durante la práctica totalidad de la grabación.

Uno podría pensar en él como un guitarrista de pacotilla, que toca poco y que parece no querer protagonizar su propio disco (sin ir mas lejos, recuerdo un par de discos del proyecto de un guitarrista español terriblemente mediocre, que se rodeaba de algún buen solista y una rítmica sólida para ocultar su propia incapacidad), pero la realidad se impone mediante seis excelentes composiciones que se revelan como la finalidad última de este disco.

Lopes sabe exactamente lo que debe y lo que no debe aportar a cada tema, manifestándose como un líder cabal, un compositor destacable, un solista misterioso y, en definitiva, una nueva voz a tener en cuenta en el futuro”  Yahvé M. / Tomajazz

A week or so ago, my friend Anthony Mariani was spielin’ on the FW Weekly‘s blog thingy about how listening to jazz makes you hip. Quoth the Italian kid: “Most of Coltrane’s free compositions and moments really exploited the notion that jazz…could sensibly and artfully reflect the rhythms of life: sometimes falling in perfect sync, sometimes just bouncing all around or into one another, and all the while leaving in their wakes contrails of color and mood. AS WITH LIFE, you have to slow down and pay CLOSE attention to what [jazz musicians] are doing to have the best experience possible.” Now, I happen to agree with his point about jazz reflecting life’s riddims and requiring your full attention to fully appreciate it. (As far as hipness goes, I’m with Tower of Power: “Hipness is what it is; sometimes, hipness is what it ain’t” — how’s that for obliqueness?) My fave musical artiste Of All Time is probably Charles Mingus, whose best album, The Black=2 0Saint and the Sinner Lady, features exactly the kind of ebb and flow Mariani describes, a musical environment that changes and shifts from moment to moment like a busy cityscape; in the past, I’ve bought any recording I could find from Mingus’ 1964 European tour to hear the way the musicians transformed the set, which was essentially static, from one night to the next. But you need time and attention to pick up on such subtlety, and lately I’ve been kinda busy between work, trying to book shows for a couple of bands, and just the normal (and some not-so-normal) stuff you have to do to get through life. All of which is by way of explaining why I’m just now getting around to reviewing this superb CD, which bassist Aaron Gonzalez gave me when I saw him play at Lola’s with Yells At Eels back in August. I first met Aaron’s father, trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, 30 years ago when I tagged along while a guitarist friend of mine went over to jam at his house. Dennis had just released his first album Air Light (Sleep Sailor), and he and his wife Carol were very gracious. Dennis went on to perform and record with a veritable “who’s who” of the jazz avant-garde, from AACM veterans to European upstarts, but in 1994 he retired from music, except for what playing he did as a teacher20in Dallas public schools. It was his sons that brought Dennis back to playing in 1999. After playing with their dad in an accordion-led trio playing traditional Mexican music, bassist Aaron and drummer Stefan — who also perform together as the grindcore duo Akkolyte — invited him to join them in a new venture: a trio playing jazz and improvised music. Since then, they’ve released three CDs (one a double) and toured North America and Europe several times. While a Yells At Eels lineup that included tenorman Rodrigo Amado toured Portugal last year, he and the brothers recorded the Humanization 4tet CD under the leadership of guitarist Luis Lopes. As a guitarist who teethed on Hendrix and Buddy Guy and reveres masters of the simple like Ron Asheton and Eddie Hazel, I’ll admit to having a bias against most jazz guitarists. While I definitely admire what they do and certainly am not up to their technical level (I once tried to jam with Keith Wingate and felt like a five-year-old attempting to converse with an adult), what they do doesn’t always move me. There’s something about the dryness of most jazz players’ tones and the precision of their attack; I want somebody that leaves more blood on the strings, like Sonny Sharrock or Pete Cosey. That said, I quite enjoy Luis Lopes’ playing on this, his first recording as a leader. His fretwork has some of the hallmarks of guys I dig like Bern Nix from Ornette’s original Prime Time band (his tone and some note choices on lead-off track “Cristadingo”), Extrapolation-era John McLaughlin and early John Abercrombie (particularly Lopes’ tasteful use of effects). His staccato solo on that opening cut is a good example of his style: Lopes isn’t flaunting technique for its own sake, he’s milking it for its expressive potential. His compositions (which include dedications to an Italian film director, a British scientist, an American musician and a Mexican painter) provide open-ended frameworks for exploration. Saxophonist Amado’s a fully-formed and expressive improviser, part of the reason why the late Dewey Redman told me (when I interviewed him for the Weekly back in 2003) that American musicians can’t command top dollar in Europe anymore: “They’ve got their own set of musicians now.” Amado’s burry tone and thematic ideas recall Sonny Rollins; the unison lines he plays with leader Lopes on some of the tunes recall both the late-period Pharaoh Sanders on Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages and John Surman on McLaughlin’s Extrapolation, as well as Rollins when he employed Jim Hall. Aaron Gonzalez has the same dark sound and highly physical approach to the bass as Ornette’s longtime accompanist Charlie Haden. I once had the privilege of standing next to him onstage when we played together with a noisy rock-based improv ou tfit called Kamandi. At the end of the night, Aaron showed me his left hand: there was skin hanging off every finger. His lengthy pizzicato intro to “Long March (For Frida Kahlo)” is somberly lyrical. Elsewhere he drives the band hard, swinging with forceful abandon. The Great Tyrant‘s Jon Teague, who’s subbed for Stefan Gonzalez on a Yells At Eels gig in Dallas, once speculated aloud what it must have been like “growing up in that house,” where role models and exemplars like Alvin Fielder, Andrew Cyrille, or Famoudou Don Moye were frequently present. Stefan’s his own guy, though, behind the traps, an explosively aggressive player who can also be very delicate. On “4 Small Steps,” there are moments when his cymbal-and-snare work is reminiscent of the Elvin Jones “erupting volcano” effect from Trane’s Meditations. And these guys are just getting started. Humanization 4tet is the kind of record that rewards repeated listenings — like a good book or a fine painting, you can always find something there that escaped your notice before. And if that ain’t hip, I don’t know what is”  Ken Shimamotto / The Stash Dauber