By Josef Woodard | Published September 2017
One of the reasons João Barradas stands apart from the fairly slender ranks of virtuoso jazz accordionists is his taste for adventure. Concurrently, his roots are intact and entrenched in jazz and classical traditions, as well as other niches in the musical world where accordion is known to travel. We get a winning introduction to the young Portuguese dynamo on his aptly named debut album, Directions, a sensitive, open-minded, multi-directional and undeniably chops-endowed set of music.
Our first indication of venturesome thinking arrives at the outset, as Barradas spins off a philosophical essay on the fly. Alto saxophonist Greg Osby, also the album’s producer, lends his gymnastic, spidery instrumental voice to the mix on this track, titled “Expressive Idea,” and later cameos on “Unknown Identity” and the album’s finale, “Ignorance”—all tracks that lean into a more angular, harmonically exploratory zone. Poised balladic beauty is at hand on “Varazdin’s Landscape,” and elsewhere on the album, he latches on to an odd-metered Slavic folkloric groove for “Amalgamat” and nods to the Piazzolla-ish realm of nuevo tango on “The Red Badge Of Courage.”
Among Barradas’ many champions is Gil Goldstein, who embarks on a thrilling accordion duet with the younger player to the tune of Goldstein’s “Tiling The Plane,” loosely built off of the changes of “Giant Steps.” Here, as throughout Directions, the nimble young accordionist acquits himself like the new, true musical sensation his nascent reputation promises him to be.
Directions: Expressive Idea; Letter To Mother’s Immersion; Varazdin’s Landscape; Unknown Identity; Amalgamat; Tiling The Plane; Manners Of Normality; The Red Badge Of Courage; Homeric Hymn; Ignorance. (58:00)
Personnel: João Barradas, accordion, MIDI accordion; Greg Osby, alto saxophone (1, 4, 11); Gil Goldstein, accordion (7); Sara Serpa, vocals (6); André Fernandes, guitar; João Paulo Esteves da Silva, piano; André Rosinha, bass; Bruno Pedroso, drums.