La soirée japanaise II

 ***** Naoki Kita, Guilherme Rodrigues & Naoto Yamagishi

For me, this trio album, recorded live at Barber Fuji in Saitama, Japan in September 2019, is the most beautiful album of Guilherme that I know. It was mixed, mastered and cover art by Carlos Santos, and released in May 2020 in the middle of the Covid19 crisis. It contains 4 track, each of them being a masterpiece of meditative free improvised chamber music that combines Western aesthetics with Eastern meditative depth. "I" starts with a pulsating pizzicato of the violin and cello, and incredible percussion sounds. Guilherme and Naoki starts then to bow in a distorted, expressive way, and return to "fake" sounds end effects. There is a certain tension in the air, yet at the end everything return to a peaceful synergy. "II", the over 13 minutes long highlight, is similar, yet very different. Again, "fake" sounds of hard-to-guess-origin are omnipresent in the beginning, but then full of expression bowing starts. The final is again more peaceful and joyful, with repetitive, minimal motifs. "III" is a shorter track that combines abstraction and openness with the minimal music elements. The closing "IV" is a 10 minutes long musical journey between West and East with violin sounding sometimes like koto and cello like an approaching thunderstorm. 

 I am ashamed of not knowing Naoto Yamagishi (born 1979) earlier -- for me one of the most interesting percussion discoveries of the recent years.
Creative Sources - CS XXX CD Naoki Kita (v); Guilherme Rodrigues (clo); Naoto Yamagishi (perc). September 2019. 

By Maciej Lewenstein

Three wind instruments, three strings, piano, percussion and electronics - the Red List Ensemble can boldly set off on a post-cameralist journey through the nooks and crannies of sounds, their complex textures, creating a multi-layered narrative, realised in real time, often using so-called extended techniques. In other words, we are at home!
At the start of the performance, the musicians propose small, broken phrases, interspersed with longer sound passages. Some of the artists' actions seem to be pre-programmed (predefined) or saved on - perhaps - non-existent five lines. Everything is done here in focus, without haste or excessive escalation of emotions. Noises and rustling, breathing and sound jigsaw puzzles - this is a small orchestra that is looking for a dramatic point of attachment. Electroacoustic freedom created mainly by acoustic sounds. Chamber music charged with concepts, which explodes from time to time, and then quickly returns to the contracted structure of the story. Nerves on the lead, patience, meticulousness and dramatic omission. The invisible conductor perfectly controls the temperament of nine instrumentalists. In the middle of the first part a dramatic silence begins to rise above the stage, interrupted by electroacoustic incidents. The narrative, however, takes on a collective character and the direction of the journey is indicated - the brass bands discuss with the strings, while the cheerful piano and nervous percussion sow occasional ferments. The electronics add their three inferiorities, as well as the broken phrases of the saxophone, clarinet and trombone. The story is agilely extinguished by acoustic details.
The beginning of the second story sinks into silence. The instruments seem to generate nano sounds, single micro stamps of phony, and the musicians breathe deeply and sweat from waiting. The narrative resembles a puzzle consisting of a thousand elements - filigree acoustics and somewhat illustrative electronics, created for films describing the conquest of space in the middle of the last century. Foggy resonance, low, slender strings, dry wind jets and flat percussion. After 10 minutes flow gradually starts to take life, without any dynamic attributes. Finally, after 17 minutes, the minimalist piano builds an intriguing exposition, which is adorned with brass halfdrons. After the next few minutes, the intricately created story grows brilliantly, and then it disappears just as attractively.
The piano does not lose the resonance from the previous part and a clever sequence of sounds opens the third story. Single jerks by the strings, patches of wind-breathing, intricate, again a little puzzling spider web of events. Acoustic instruments without the support of electronics begin to activate their actions, and a signal to increase collective creativity is given by a loud shot from the cello, perhaps showing that it is the musician holding this slender instrument in his hands that is the main driving force behind the Red List Ensemble. The sound arrives in a unit of time - our participation includes longer para-jazz exposures of the saxophone, clarinet and trombone, supported by relatively active drumming. In the middle of 12 minutes, the narrative sensually fades away, and the phase of the bodily drones envelops the stage. The aura of electroacoustic dark ambient lasts until the piano starts its small but charming preparations. This event takes place after 15 minutes. Stains of non-invasive electronics additionally build up tension. Murmuring, noises, small phrases - the subcutaneous life of the narrative takes on a blush. The collective swarm of creation begins to pay off for the musicians. After 20 minutes they start to play really loudly (for the terms of this story), their rehearsals taste almost post-industrial. After another two minutes, at the signal of an invisible conductor, the RLE starts searching for the last sound. He does it in a very stylish way, step by step, after all, the aesthetics of chamber suspense is his strongest weapon.

The Red List Ensemble Scope (Creative Sources, CD 2020); Marko Hefele - violin, Rieko Okuda - piano, Michael Thieke - clarinet, Guilherme Rodrigues - cello, Matthias Müller - trombone, Mia Dyberg - alto saxophone, Klaus Kürvers - double bass, Sofia Borges - percussion instruments and Richard Scott - electronics. Recorded in January 2019, StudioBoerne45, Berlin. Duration - 63:47.
In SpontaneousMusicTribune by Andrzej Nowak

Músico português que hoje é parte activa da cena berlinense da improvisação, o violoncelista Guilherme Rodrigues é o mentor (que não o líder, pois trata-se de um colectivo não hierárquico) deste Red List Ensemble em estreia discográfica. Nele encontramos também uma improvisadora (além de compositora e intérprete de música contemporânea) de origem lusitana que escolheu Berlim como cidade de habitação, a percussionista Sofia Borges, ao lado de figuras de diversas nacionalidades que na Alemanha têm a base do seu trabalho, designadamente Marko Hefele (violino), Rieko Okuda (piano), Michael Thieke (clarinete), Matthias Muller (trombone), Mia Dyberg (saxofone alto), Klaus Kurvers (contrabaixo) e Richard Scott (electrónica).

Na linha das preferências da música erudita desde o século passado e da música improvisada que se emancipou da herança do free jazz, as opções daquilo que ouvimos em “Scope” vão para o timbre (e daí os cromatismos que atravessam todo o disco) e para a textura (a criação de massas sonoras de densidade vária). Se são essas também as características da tendência reducionista da improvisação, com a qual alguns destes músicos estão identificados, a abordagem é outra e define-se pela relacionação do “near silence” com o ruído, numa obliquidade performativa que volta a cruzar em John Cage as noções de que tanto o silêncio como o som supostamente não musical podem ser matéria da música. O interessante é que, dentro deste quadro em que quietude e intensidade se vão mesclando e em que o muito pequeno, enquanto condição, não contradiz a quantidade com que tais diminutos elementos vão surgindo (o reducionismo advogava, para além de uma diminuição de volume, também uma diminuição de sons tocados), a influência do jazz faz-se algumas vezes sentir, sobretudo nas intervenções de Muller, Thieke e Dyberg. Há, de resto, por aqui um curioso regresso a conceitos mais convencionais de harmonia e de ritmo, em alto contraste com o uso de técnicas alternativas na execução dos instrumentos. Um álbum que merece escuta atenta.

In by Rui Eduardo Paes

Another masterpiece released los tiempos de colera on April, 3rd 2020.
Red List Ensemble was founded in Berlin in 2019 by Guilherme.
Quoting liner notes: "The ensemble's textural approach presents us with a cellular music created from an eminently timbral dimension, open to truly free and infinitely variable acoustic and electronic possibilities." This beautiful album was recorded at StudioBoerne45 in Berlin. The music forms a coherent superposition of free improvisation, composed free improvisation, contemporary classical music. It is mostly acoustic, but includes very important electronic elements provided by Richard Scott. "Scope" has three parts. "I" lasts 16 minutes and is notable for incredible work of strings (Guilherme Rodrigues and Marko Hafele) and winds entries. Here the connection to XXth and XXIst century classical music is very clear. "II" is different: it starts very quietly, with various effects, breaths and breathing, delicate percussion accents, and so on... After 5 minutes electronics enters, dominates and retires, being accompanied by strings, percussion and winds. Winds produce a quiet repetitive fragmented sounds and effects inviting strings to join. The final few minutes, with piano taking the lead, are magisterial: it is free minimal music at the highest possible level. Part "III"
is the longest and lasts over 27 minutes. It starts with wonderful, but short piano introduction. The strings enter, as well as the beautiful live electronics, and then the winds. The sounds of this collective improvisation appear to be independent and independently fragmented, but augment and get correlated. Collective improvised synergy rules the game, in which acoustic and electronic parts intertwine and create a true wonder. It is the music that cannot be compared to anything else, an artistic
discovery of incredible importance.
By Maciej Lewenstein

Un duo violoncelle (Guilherme Rodrigues) et saxophone soprano et sopranino (Harri Sjöström) basé à Berlin. Guilherme est attaché à la mouvance Creative Sources, label portugais dirigé par son père Ernesto et pour lequel il a enregistré une quantité innombrable d’albums dans la veine lower-case « minimaliste radicale. Harri Sjöström est connu pour avoir joué régulièrement avec Cecil Taylor, Phil Wachsmann, Paul Lovens, Gianni Mimmo.  Dans cet opus enthousiasmant, Guilherme nous fait découvrir son talent de violoncelliste plus proche de la tessiture « normale» de l’instrument en totale empathie avec le jeu étiré, serpentin et intense d’Harri Sjöström.  Chacun d’eux mettent en valeur une pluralité de caractères sonores expressifs, vibrants, cachés, découverts dans l’instant de leurs instruments respectifs. Angles, accents, épures, sursauts, extrêmes, graves ou suraigus. On pourra comparer avec le duo de Gianni Mimmo et Daniel Levin qui partage la même instrumentation (Turbulent Flow /Amirani). Ce que j’apprécie particulièrement dans ces Treasures est l’éventail follement exhaustif de très nombreuses variations dans le choix des timbres et les imbrications, tuilages, juxtapositions, contrastes, enchaînements, tournoiements,  qui les associent et nous donnent le tournis. Une forme de virtuosité véloce est contournée au profit d’une expressivité intense, d’échanges fructueux au niveau des palettes, des couleurs, des reflets rougeoyants, ambrés, ocres, fauves …. Je ne peux m'empêcher de réécouter cette merveilleuse suite d’histoires aux multiples rebondissements. C’est assurément un enregistrement unique de deux individus ouverts l’un à l’autre et qui dépasse leur valeur intrinsèque propre, grâce à leur intense écoute mutuelle et la compréhension profonde de leurs registres intimes particuliers à partager expressément dans leur rencontre. Une musique pleine de plaisirs et de générosités. Un très grand disque.
Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg (Orynx)

Bringing together a wealth of experience in contemporary improvised music, Berlin-based cellist Guilherme Rodrigues and soprano and sopranino saxophonist Harri Sjostrom developed these 12 pieces, combining and contrasting their instruments, at times seeming to complete each other's phrases, in a remarkably sophisticated and virtuosic "Treasure". The Squid’s Ear.

An atmospheric duo of the two musicians, who both live in Berlin. As the liner notes point out: "they bring forth an unfamiliar, yet distinctly European idiom that owes a lot to the history of jazz (and the legacy of
 Giuffre, Lacy, Dolphy, and Cora, Honsiger, Reijseger, Holland) as well as contemporary music, reminiscences of which are so clear sometimes." They play twenty short miniatures lasting from one to seven minutes, and to and half on average. The associations with the music of Anton Webern, Helmut Lachenmann and Giacinto Scelsi music are in place. The synergy between the violin of
 Guilherme and the saxophones of Harri is incredible. I, somehow, like particularly the pieces for sopranino for their specic sound complicity. Very beautiful album, highly recommended!
By Maciej Lewenstein


Há discos assim, e o facto de não haver muitos que assim são valoriza-os ainda mais. Quando dizemos “assim” é porque a música que está lá dentro tem em si mesma – mesmo que não consideremos quem a criou e as histórias que lhe deram realidade – algo que a liberta das leis da gravidade e a torna especial. Não era preciso mais nada para que discos como este se impusessem num circuito, como o da música improvisada, em que as edições se fazem em todo o mundo às centenas, senão milhares. No caso de “The Treasures Are” há, no entanto, algo de extra a ter em conta, e esse extra está no facto de nele encontrarmos um pioneiro da livre-improvisação europeia, o finlandês Harri Sjöström, há quase quatro décadas radicado em Berlim, a tocar com um dos seus mais jovens valores, o português Guilherme Rodrigues, também ele com casa montada na cidade alemã: é como se nas 20 miniaturas que compõem o álbum, envolvendo nada mais do que um saxofone sopranino (ou soprano, por vezes) e um violoncelo, estivéssemos a assistir a uma passagem de testemunho. Ou melhor: à transmissão de uma herança.
 Sjöström foi aluno de Steve Lacy, privou tanto com John Cage, o compositor que demonstrou que o silêncio não existe, que também é música, como com George Russell, o inventor do Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. Este é o mesmo Sjöström que teve durante anos uma colaboração intensa e extensiva com Cecil Taylor, que tocou com luminárias como Bill Dixon, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey e Vinko Globokar e que tem estado sempre presente na nata da chamada improv, em repetidas parcerias com gente como John Russell, Phillip Wachsmann e Lawrence Casserley. Tal figurão da música do instante criada com referências simultâneas nas tradições do jazz e da clássica não teve dúvidas em emparceirar com o miúdo de Lisboa que foi crescendo na música em grupos vários liderados pelo seu pai, o violetista Ernesto Rodrigues: o que ouvimos ambos fazer em conversações espontâneas tão empáticas, apesar de nunca enveredarem por mínimos denominadores comuns, que mais parecem ter sido escritas, chega a ser motivo de espanto. A música dança, eleva-se do chão e fica-lhe uns metros acima, tornada gesto absoluto, escultura móvel, sendo a própria mobilidade que a torna visível. Guilherme Rodrigues fica agora com a responsabilidade de levar para o futuro o legado que Sjöström lhe deu em vida e percebemos nestas peças com toda a clareza que o fará com desvelo… Rui Eduardo Paes (

Another inspired, multi-generational combination of musicians is to be found on The Treasures Are, a duo recording from Sjöström and the younger cellist Guilherme Rodrigues. All of the music on the recording presumably was improvised, but the quality of the interplay is such that parts sound as if they had been composed prior to the performance. Much of the credit for this goes to Rodrigues, who seems largely to be responding to Sjöström’s inventive leads throughout much of the recording. Rodrigues has an almost telepathic ability to complete Sjöström’s phrases, create lucid, coherent harmonies from Sjöström’s melodies, and spin Sjöström’s lines into impromptu canons. Both Sjöström and Rodrigues take the music to many places–from abstract expressionist squeals and squeaks, through freely atonal lyricism, to quasi-conventional harmony—without losing a sense of continuity or stalling for time. In sum, a quite beautiful performance of contemporary European improvised music from two highly attuned players.
Daniel Barbiero (Avant Music News)

O veterano saxofonista finlandês Harri Sjöström se uniu em duo ao violoncelista português Guilherme Rodrigues para esta sessão realizada há pouco mais de um ano, em novembro de 2018. Sjöström, com umas quatro décadas de história na música improvisada, na qual se destacam diferentes gravações que fez com Cecil Taylor, vive na Alemanha há bastante tempo e foi lá que formou esta parceria com Rodrigues. A dupla criou um total de 20 peças, a maioria bem curta, entre 1 e 3 minutos, para compor este The Treasures Are. A música é improvisação livre do mais alto nível, com precisão, inventividade e técnicas apuradas gestando uma sonoridade desafiadora aos sentidos e de grande apelo expressivo. Focado na família mais aguda dos saxes – toca aqui soprano e sopranino –, Sjöström trava verdadeiras batalhas com Rodrigues, mas sempre em uma disputa que visa a unicidade e, daí, o surgimento de temas de complexidade elevada, mas atraentes à escuta. Há peças em que a voz mais enérgica e cortante do duo sobressai, como III e X; e há outras em que temos a oportunidade de vê-los em voltagem mais relaxada, como em VI e XIII. Dentre as várias pequenas peças que nos levam de um extremo a outro, há o tema central, XI, que traz quase oito minutos e funciona bem como uma maneira de vermos o diálogo do duo se desenvolvendo de forma mais ampla e variada. De uma possibilidade expressiva a outra, a multiplicidade de ideias de dois músicos em sintonia perfeita.
Fabricio Vieira (FreeForm, FreeJazz)

Ernesto Rodrigues has been releasing so many improvising string ensemble albums, especially with his son Guilherme on cello, but also in various other contexts (e.g. the Lisbon String Trio), that they almost become their own genre. Moreover, Ernesto's recordings with Guilherme & Dietrich Petzold (on violin, viola, and sometimes other instruments) have become so numerous of late that they start to form a subgenre: In particular, while their series of interactions began (at least on recording) with Sacred Noise (a double album recorded in October 2016), much of this activity occurred in 2018, with the quartet album Get Your Own Picture (a meaty, hour+ long album recorded in Berlin in October 2018) being the latest installment. Get Your Own Picture actually follows (by recording date) closely on the heels of two "Creative Sources Digital" albums already appearing with Petzold & recorded a few days earlier that month (as already mentioned in December 2018), but also shortly after the second trio album, Ljubljana (also discussed here in December 2018) & the quartet albums Crane Cries (discussed April 2018) & Dis/con/sent (discussed October 2018): The latter, along with the digital-only releases, features Matthias Bauer on bass, while the former involves Elo Masing on violin (& thus, unusually for this developing genre, includes no bass) to form a more classical string quartet. And I say "more" because Petzold not only switches between violin & viola on Crane Cries & elsewhere, but sometimes includes e.g. keyboard, or even jagged bowed metal on Dis/con/sent.... Get Your Own Picture, however, not only continues to reprise the "jazz string quartet" with double bass, but involves Jan Roder for the first time: Roder had been discussed here (in May 2017) around Happy Jazz (with Olaf Rupp), and his participation apparently yields a more generally classical motivic & assertive atmosphere. Get Your Own Picture is then an extensive album, alternating shorter & longer tracks — & although the shorter tracks aren't necessarily punchier than passages within the longer sequences, the album does begin that way (i.e. almost in a late Beethoven-esque mode), before becoming sparser on the second track, which does itself eventually return to more straightforward melodic figures.... There's thus more traditional counterpoint, and more motivic repetition in general, than on many Rodrigues albums, but extended technique (e.g. in pizzicato or harmonics) is also sometimes featured beyond the basic arco sound: There's thus some "quiet scuffling" at times, but also boisterous "traffic" activity amid a variety of procedural journeys.... Given the ensemble & concomitant sophistication, a ready comparison is with the Stellari Quartet & its recent release Vulcan (itself recorded back in 2016), on which an ongoing group of four virtuoso string players develops a variety of styles & interactions over an extended series of tracks — apparently deriving from at least a couple of sessions & maybe more: Such an approach to performance & selection yields a rather weighty tome for the listener, deriving from years of interactions, whereas Rodrigues releases albums prolifically (often quite soon after recording).... Rather than such a dense & singular result (as Stellari makes an impression in part by being distinctive), Rodrigues' output thus consists of endless internal variation, both in quotidian inspiration & via a developing series of musical partners: It comes to elaborate its own sense of familiarity, and bares that development to the listener by releasing so much similar music, even if one outcome of such an orientation is to diminish the impact of individual issues. (In turn, the "process" becomes that much more transparent.) Within that context, then, Get Your Own Picture provides a relatively accessible (even melodic at times, yet still stimulating) snapshot of Rodrigues' work with Petzold in Berlin in 2018.
Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts