Fil Caporali/ Tom Bourgeois

Moanin’ Birds

Moanin’ Birds is far better than it first seems. Bassist Fil Caporali and multi-reedist Tom Bourgeois choose to begin their duo album with one of their brief improvised interludes; it’s the kind of shapeless sound painting that, in less than a minute, has caused stronger temperaments than mine to write off the whole affair.

Be warned, then, but do not be impatient: Most of Moanin’ Birds is captivating. Whether playing synergistically, as on Milton Nascimento’s “Cravo e Canela,” or contrapuntally, as on “Last Minute” or “Melancolia Cha Cha,” the Brussels-based players generate rich melody and richer rhythm. They do both with enough spontaneity that even the numbers with obvious arrangements (“Melancolia Cha Cha” comprises alternating but tight bass patterns with lyrical sax figures) sound serendipitous.

There’s also a high quotient of folk idioms that plays out across the record. Perhaps it’s the sparseness of the instrumentation that does it. Caporali’s bass sound, both nimble and ramshackle, makes for a kind of crude dance on “Crooked Bird.” His high arco against Bourgeois’s quiet bass clarinet on “Yearning” suggests the lugubrious moods of Slavic music. Then again, when the textures beef up on three tracks (with pianist Dorian Dumont and drummer Lionel Beuvens), they only double down on the folksy element. Even the decidedly un-populist 7/8 time of “Last Minute” has a hearty down-home thump to it.

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