Sunday, December 5

‘Free jazz’ to hum | Culture

Lucía Martínez, Baldo Martínez and Juan Saiz, the three members of Frágil Gigante, last Sunday in Madrid.
Lucía Martínez, Baldo Martínez and Juan Saiz, the three members of Frágil Gigante, last Sunday in Madrid.Santi Burgos

The Titan gets out of bed in the middle of the night. Stumbling shadows, he gropes down the dark corridor until he hits a switch. Not even the light allows him to straighten the step. He walks slowly, limping, and in a pause to gain momentum, he suddenly falls to the ground like a collapsed tower. With this metaphor, that of the colossus with feet of clay, Baldo Martínez, Juan Saiz and Lucía Martínez describe their debut: Fragile Giant, nine detailed cuts that are based on free improvisation.

“Our music is risky. It looks solid like a titan, but it’s always balancing itself. Hence its fragility, ”explains 37-year-old drummer Lucía Martínez, minutes before performing. He Madrid Jazz Festival hosted on Sunday, at the Fernán-Gómez theater, the most experimental debut of this edition. On stage, it seems that the trio achieves expressiveness through balance, rather than reproducing the usual collision of the free. The double bass, the winds and the percussion are summoned to an assembly in which they deliberate and are replicated without interruptions. The British label Leo Records —which has published the work of other referents of an increasingly global genre, such as Art Ensemble of Chicago or Evan Parker— supports this fruitful meeting of three artists with a career in the avant-garde.

Evan Parker: the world in his lungs

The phonograph, born in the noisy seventies, qualifies the Spanish as “free jazz with melodies that you can sing, by three improvisers from the emerging Spanish scene ”. And it is no oxymoron, as the 34-year-old flutist and saxophonist Juan Saiz indicates: “This genre tends to flee from the tonal, it avoids singing resources. However, that is exactly the germ of our songs ”. Crisp melodies that break and transform in the development of improvisation. They are the starting point and sometimes the arrival point, after several minutes of noisy textures. As it happens in Nana, the epilogue of the album, when a children’s song emerges from Baldo Martínez’s double bass in the form of a harmonic.

As they finished that cut, the drummer’s little daughter snuck into the studio and began humming and dancing. The LP is one of those cultural products victim of covid-19 despite being dated a long time ago. It was recorded in three days, six months before the health crisis, but this short-circuited a good part of its broadcast and live presentation. Now they are trying to make up for it with four performances for November. All in institutional spaces. “The few remaining clubs in Spain are now closing their doors,” laments Saiz. The last appointment, on the 19th at the VII Santander Jazz Festival, has been in the air since the curfew was brought forward in the Cantabrian capital. Tours these days are fickle. But they do not give up their quest to make themselves heard.

The value of the near

That feeling of farewell until further notice planned at the Madrid concert. The high point came with Response, a funereal piece that takes on another meaning after the outbreak of the pandemic. The sax hints at a Celtic-inspired tribute to the deceased, to give way to more abstract high notes. The melody fractures on the drums and the double bass creates a gloomy blizzard. “This will be the fourth time that I go on stage after the confinement,” acknowledged minutes before backstage Baldo Martínez, 61 years old. “You can tell that the public is in need of music. The atmosphere becomes very intense. While I play I can’t help but remember colleagues who are no longer there, like my friend the saxophonist Marcelo Peralta ”.

The Galician double bass player, who had already engaged in interesting dialogues separately with the other two legs of Frágil Gigante, is the only one of the trio who combs gray hair. his Miño Project, a commission he received from the Guimaraes Jazz Festival, highlighted him a decade ago on the European map of jazz and its surroundings. For this company, he surrounded himself with nine other collaborators who played ancestral instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy, a medieval crank and rubbed-rope contraption that maestro Mateo immortalized in Compostela’s Pórtico de la Gloria. These wickers served to Baldo Martínez to recompose the airs of the popular songbook of the peninsular northwest. A tradition that reappears in his new trio with Bradada.

On the subject, the folkloric reminiscences lead to a violent catharsis of dynamic improvisation. Outside our borders, the mix “is even more suggestive”, as Leo Feigin, the alma mater of the seal that produces Fragile Gigante. By contrast, the trio complains that the national festivals barely have Spanish formations. “There is a certain suspicion for what arises here,” says Lucía Martínez, “as if coming up close had less value.” There is only one hour left for the live. The sound check is done between races and rush. All tickets have been sold for a stalls reduced by half to respect the safety distance. “We really appreciate that you let us know. I hope that another pandemic does not have to arrive so that the programmers can count on us again ”, emphasizes the double bass player Martínez.

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