Sei Miguel

Still Alive in Barrio Alto

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On Still Alive in Barrio Alto, Portuguese trumpeter Sei Miguel leads a group of six musicians through "Favourite Places in Time," a composition lasting 42 minutes. The true nature of the piece remains undisclosed, but it includes a lot of improvisation. It appears to take the shape of a cue-in-cue-out conduction (to use Lawrence Butch Morris' term) where Miguel signals musicians to start or stop playing, thus shaping the piece through a shifting array of solos, duets, and trios. A few ground rules have also been established: musical phrases are to be kept short, favoring staccato playing, volume level stays low, listening is as important as playing. Miguel is accompanied by trombonist Fala Mariam, guitarists Manuel M. Mota and Tiago Brandão, percussionists Monsieur Trinité and César Burago (both on small, hand-held percussion), and Margarida Garcia who is credited with "twin," which appears to be a two-string electric upright bass. The music remains very abstract, almost hermetic, without any significant dynamic changes. Garcia anchors the piece with her microtonal two-finger walking, evoking the thunderous lines of the Nihilist Spasm Band's Hugh McIntyre rather than any jazz bassist. Mota's Derek Bailey-like guitar counterbalances Miguel and Mariam's slightly jazzier inflections, while the percussions provide delicate textures. The piece lacks some direction; it never makes its duration appear necessary. That aside, it still presents intriguing aspects and represents the work of a younger generation of avant-garde musicians based in Lisbon -- a new scene in the making.

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