By Izzy Yellen | Published July 2016
Albums that mix music and poetry in equal measure are exceptionally rare these days, which makes Spanish bassist Alexis Cuadrado’s newest project a standout. It helps that this album—which features not only a brooding quartet but two contrasting poets performing their works—blends the elements of music and poetry in stunning and unexpected ways, often with beautiful and organic results. Its main goal is to explore themes of cultural dislocation through sharing spoken word in multiple languages over eclectic music.
Cuadrado faced a daunting task in his combination of different art forms—one literary, the other musical—but the way the ensemble comes together so naturally doesn’t display that challenge at all. The four musicians on this disc create dark and powerful backgrounds, sharing unbridled improvised solos and engaging in simple, driving grooves. On top of these soundscapes, the two poets perform individually on their respective tracks, not just reciting their poetry, but delving into the nuances of the language, taking inspiration from the rhythm, inflexion and melody of the quartet.
Poètica has an alluring energy. From its subdued valleys to its chaotic peaks, there’s a momentum that can be attributed mostly to the shared artistic goals between the musicians and poets. The listener may feel confused, anxious or moved at points, but regardless, the intensity will be evident from beginning to end.
This album isn’t for passive listening. It demands your attention. It’s dense and unrelenting, but worth countless listens. With engaging poetry and compelling music, Poètica is an album that jazz-lovers and poetry fanatics alike should not pass up.
Poètica: Song Of Fulton And Gold; Terra Incognita; Embrace The Night And Get Thee Gone; Balada De Matt Sweeney I; Balada De Matt Sweeney II; Balada De Matt Sweeney III; Grief And The Imaginary Grave; What A Rose Is/ Pamela/Cornelia St. Café; Grief And The Imaginary Grave, Vol. 2: Red Trillium; Nit De Halloween, 2008; Mappa Mundi; Long Island City / Modus Vivendi; Abingdon Square Park / Apocalypse With Sasquatch. (56:50)
Personnel: Alexis Cuadrado, double bass, voice, cajón, handclaps; Melcion Mateu, voice (4-6, 8, 10-12); Rowan Ricardo Phillips, voice (1-3, 7, 9, 13); Miles Okazaki, guitar; Andy Milne, piano and keyboards; Tyshawn Sorey, drums.