Brazilian drummer and songwriter Alfredo Dias Gomes has established a much deserved reputation as one of the world preeminent percussionists, but his most recent collection Pulse shows an exponential growth in his songwriting promising to take him to a higher level than before. Pulse is Gomes’ sixth solo album and his explorations in jazz/fusion territory have produced a varied and inspired body of work pulling from Gomes’ composing talents and covering songs from iconic performers in the genre. The latest album features two originals alongside compositions from artists as varied as Larry Coryell and the recently deceased Alphonse Mouzon, among others. These are, naturally, instrumentals, but even music lovers who generally reject such virtuosic exercises should find much to love on this intensely musical outing.
The opening song “The Other Side” shows off their sparkling interplay without ever being self indulgent. The main movers musically are the guitar, drumming, and tenor sax. Most of the fireworks occur between the guitar and sax with Gomes laying down an unerring groove for them to trade licks over. “The Funk Waltz” takes a traditional form and tackles its unusual time signature with a musical style that novices to this music would have never suspected could work so well. The funked up time signature crackles and pops in the hand of Gomes and his fellow players and they own this Alphonse Mouzon original. Gomes’ drumming attack has massive, relentless groove on the song “The Phonse” and the silky groove he hits is filled in with great color from his other band mates. Some passages near the song’s midpoint are particularly intense and this focus only tightens in especially rousing second half.
There’s an understated aggressiveness in “Low-Lee-Tah” and suggestiveness around the edges of the performance that ties in well with the title. A smoky, humid feel permeates all ten tracks, but some like this exude a much more tangible atmosphere. Blistering drums introduce “Yin” and the early instrumental flourishes from the band emphatically punctuate Gomes’ challenging rhythms. Bluesy bursts of guitar take over in the song’s middle section and the bass line engages in some sharply observed counterpoint. They show an ability to change tempos in an eye blink without leaving even a sliver of daylight between them. This is all very seamless, fluidly delivered music. “Level One” opens with a cymbal flourish between Gomes kicks into the groove and the ascending instrumental lines take on a quickly hypnotic quality, weaving, revolving around each other. The transitions from one passage to another are gracefully turned and the band never loses its footing.
The title song is a much more experimental piece than many of the album’s tracks, but Gomes and his collaborators prove they have a great ability for making even the unusual textures on Pulse work in a highly musical fashion. Alfredo Dias Gomes has enlisted great, quite sympathetic musical help in realizing his vision of fusion jazz for the 21st century and his latest full length release surely ranks among his finest professional achievements.
by Jason Hillenburg