AURORA

Jazz Magazine Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Ahmad Jamal et plus récemment Keith Jarrett l’ont démontré avec force, le trio, c’est le triangle d’or de la musique. L’échange, le dialogue, l’interplay, ces trois orpailleurs et improvisateurs de haut vol que sont le pianiste Agusti Fernandez, le contrebassiste Barry Guy et le batteur Ramon Lopez, ils le pratiquent avec une maestria rare. Ecoute optimale, précision, élégance, souplesse, circulation des idées, fort sens de la relance et de la dynamique, le trio sans leader obéit à un sens très fort de l’architecture et, en même temps, se donne la liberté d’être libre, de s’échapper, à la fois très rigoureux dans la précision du trait et spontané et créatif dans le geste musicien. Ils se jouent subtilement des contrastes de volumes et de lignes, de l’expressivité naturelle des textures. Le plaisir, la simplicité, l’émotion, il y a dans ce trio la grâce qui naît des rencontres heureuses et le goût prononcé de jouer ensemble, de l’échange et de l’exploration. Il y a surtout dans ce trio cette capacité à s’abandonner aux vertiges de l’instant, à faire advenir la musique naturellement. Cela séduit parfois, cela surprend toujours. Mais là où on attendait ces trois artificiers de l’instant, ces trois incendiaires de la forme en mouvement dans les fulgurances du free, l’exaspération du matériau sonore, ils s’évadent plutôt vers des paysages sonores autres, pour une musique fortement lyrique et funambulesque. Un lyrisme abstrait tout en simplicité et sensualité d’une audace expressive totale. Jusque dans ses couleurs les plus sombres d’où perce par instants cette lueur brillante et rosée qui suit l’aube et précède le lever du soleil, l’aurore (titre du disque), la tension de l’improvisation porte vers une ascèse lumineuse. Et, finalement, c’est ce lyrisme solaire, ce chant ample et souverain qui rayonne, se pose là, en majesté.

Franck Médioni
Jazz Magazine 578 - Février 2007


Think Agustí Fernandez meets Barry Guy and you're probably thinking of the kind of deluge of molten lava that characterised the Spanish pianist's volcanic contribution to Guy's Oort-Entropy back in 2005, or his spectacular scrap with Mats Gustafsson on Critical Mass. Add wildcard dynamo percussionist Ramón López to the mix and you've got all the makings of a Fire Music trio of epic proportions, right? Yes, well, right, but if you won't get any of that here. In fact, if this had been recorded by Jan Erik Kongshaug up in Rainbow Studios in Oslo or by Martin Wieland in Tonstudio Bauer in Ludwigsburg, it'd be perfectly at home in the ECM catalogue. Indeed, it makes for an interesting comparison with the 1998 Paul Bley / Gary Peacock / Paul Motian reunion outing on ECM, Not Two, Not One (though López's flick / splatter percussion probably has more in common with the work of Tony Oxley, so perhaps In The Evenings Out There would be a more sensible choice, even if that was recorded seven years earlier). Fernandez has penned all the tunes on offer, with the exception of Guy's "Odyssey" (previously recorded on the Barry Guy New Orchestra Inscape-Tableaux album), and they're unashamedly tonal throughout, revealing a side to the pianist's playing that aficionados of Fire Music are probably unfamiliar with (though closer listening to the Fernandez discography reveals a strong current of lyricism, even romanticism – check out Dark night, and luminous with Marilyn Crispell). And Guy, whose spiky virtuosity has been a cornerstone of aggressive modernism in both free and contemporary classical music for nearly 40 years, proves he's just as good at running up and down the standard scales as Eddie Gomez or Dave Holland. López's flecks of tabla, brushes and rattles are a good foil to it all: though he can, when he wants to, ride that cymbal as well as Jon Christensen (on "Rosalia"), he's really in his element sprinkling tiny showers of colour and light over the canvas. With a more conventional drummer like Motian behind the kit it could all too easily sound sentimental, even maudlin. As it is, it might be a little too pretty for hardcore free jazzers, but if you're prepared for once to accept that there's more to life than blowing the other guy (no puns intended) into the Oort cloud, this is a welcome reminder that music can also be tender, subtle and unashamedly beautiful.

Dan Warburton
Paris Transatlantic - February 2007


Posiblemente, el mejor pianista de (“jazz”) del país: Agustí Fernández es un creador todo terreno, un jazzista de amplias miras al que los clásicos, y no sólo los del jazz, no resultan indiferentes. Aurora es un punto y aparte en su extensa discografía. Un disco “apto para todos los públicos” destinado a abrir los oídos a quienes, en nuestro país, se empeñan en seguir ignorando la variopinta y fascinante música del mallorquín. Su entente con Barry Guy (contrabajo) y Ramón López (batería) es, simplemente, prodigiosa. Interpretaciones como Rosalía u Odissey hay que oírlas dos veces para creérselas.

J.M. García Martínez, El País, mayo 2007


…From an opposite pole comes Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández’ brilliant exposition on the art of the piano trio. Fernández is probably known for his intense sound torrents that placed him in Guy’s New Orchestra to fill the shoes of the departing  Marilyn Crispell. Fernández also has a number of solo releases and has kept the company of such (sorely missed) rebels as bassist Peter Kowald (check out Sea of Lead on Hopscotch). Given Fernández CV, nothing can really prepare one for the results of (3), a strikingly exquisite realm of tranquil beauty and quiet reflection. A quick look at the personnel, pairing Fernández with Guy and drummer Ramón López, might invoke thoughts of restless vigor. Coming as a surprise, the nine tracks, all of which are composed by Fernández other than Guy’s “Odyssey”, allow each player to exude sensitivity, harmonic sensibility, and plenty of restraint, so much so, that one might argue that this record could easily find a home within the ECM aesthetic.

Pieces like the opening “Can Ram” invoke thoughts of the wonders of nature and its rolling waves, though the detached sentimentality of the “Aurora” pieces and the near silence of “David M.” also play a role in the serious mood setting this disc undertakes. This relaxed approach also bodes well on the session’s only true ballad, “Please let me sleep”. While the tempos are mostly subdued, the trio does manage to quicken the pace on the romantic “Rosalia”, highlighted by Guy’s brilliant arco work. While this is surely Fernández’ show, his cohorts assist him wonderfully throughout the program. A fitting example of the group’s empathy is seen on tracks like the epic journey of “Don Miquel”, with Guy’s limber bass lines colorizing the melodic hues while López’ gentle hand percussion adds weight, a path also taken on the luscious density of Guy’s “Odyssey”. Worth noting is that López truly sets the benchmark for judicious percussion use, rarely rising much above his gentle waves, with arguably his best work coming on the dynamic “Umaneta”. An incredibily subdued record, rich in lyricism and gripping for its quiet solitude. Certainly, this is both an interesting and welcome change of pace for Fernández.

Jay Collins, Cadence, May 2007


…Fernández acaba de publicar un disc a trio en el qual exhibeix algunes de les seves millors credencials. De títol Aurora, el treball inclou vuit composicions pròpies i una (Odissey) de signada per Barry Guy. L’entesa del trio és absoluta i el resultat transmet una cohesió i un benestar realment admirables. Subtil, elegant i intens, la seva audició pràcticament visualitza el miracle del naixement de cada dia.

Pere Pons, Avui, març 2007


Leipziger Volkszeitung, uste , May 2007

Agusti Fernandez aus Barcelona ist ein erheblich experimentierfreudiger Pianist im freien Bereich. Es war nicht unbedingt zu erwarten, dass er mit so einer eleganten, Melodien-durchzogenen, abgeklärten Trio CD auftaucht. Ebenso unerwartet steht ihm dabei Barry Guy zur Seite, einer der Ahnväter des europäischen Free Jazz, aber eben auch ein kundiger Interpret von Barockmusik. Wieder einmal springt der nun aus den vorbeschrifteten Schubladen. Und wie ! Dies ist reife, weise Musik, nah an der Stille, ohne Überdrehtheiten, absolut schlüssig, wie aus einem Guss und rundum wunderschön.


Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, february 2007

In this provocative journey towards lost innocence, the pianist imposes restraint in the use of instrument not only upon himself, but also asks his colleagues Barry Guy and Ramón López, to simplify their interventions in a similar way. Who would have thought it of these three indomitable, red-hot hyper-virtuosos? However, this three-way understanding goes back a long way, for they have been generating high-voltage spontaneous combustion together in different formats for years, and their communication floats to the surface light and serene, stripped of all solemnity, as naturally some recently-engendered creature begins to move. This new affective fabric, over and above instrumental virtuosity and the mere concept of accompaniment, takes a productive “less is more” as its watchword, obeying the call to “reduce, reduce, reduce” in a detailed work of discarding, generating an environment of freedom in which players come in and drop out again in a strange mixture of independence and common agreement. Discursive intimacy and lyrical circulation make their mark lightly from the first.


Andrey Henkin, Allaboutjazz, February 2007

It would be a fallacy to think that any musician who inhabits the world of free improvisation wishes that world to be a noisy chaotic place. Indeed, one cannot make any assumptions these days about free players, whether it be based on age, background or
collaborators. Though Spain has not produced the avant garde swarms of other places in Europe, it has a respected ambassador in pianist Agustí Fernández.
But to call Fernández avant garde is another fallacy. Call him flexible, call him exploratory or just call him one of the younger Europeans continuing the case for that continent’s jazz credibility.
Aurora is an entry into Fernández’ discography that at first may seem in contrast to his duos with Peter Kowald or Mats Gustafsson or his membership in the large ensembles of Evan Parker and Barry Guy. Aurora is defined as “a radiant emission” and the album is just that; nine luminous bands of lights that appear across the sky. But an aurora is formed through
bombardment of the atmosphere with charged solar particles and that energy and intensity is also present.
It is telling that for this stab at the traditional piano trio, Fernández brings along bassist Guy and percussionist Ramón López. Though Guy has had substantial forays into the world of bedlam, he got his start playing with another progressive pianist, Howard Riley. These days when not leading his New Orchestra, Guy is exploring the beauty of classical music and he brings those sonorities and one original piece, to this session. The rest of the tracks are written by Fernández and have their own complicated beauty.
Few themes are conventionally pretty and the solos tend toward subtle musings rather than florid expositions. López’ percussion adds a touch of the Mediterranean, taking the music out of the concert hall and putting it on a sea cliff. There is no better place to consider the heavens.


Sergio Zeni, www.tomajazz.com

Comentario: Estamos ante un álbum diferente en la trayectoria discográfica de Agustí Fernández. No tiene el grado de abstracción de la gran mayoría de sus piezas ni el perfil jazzístico de su celebrado Lonely woman. Obra de una sosegada belleza, Aurora cautiva de un modo pausado e irremediable.

Aquí el mallorquín enseña un pianismo introspectivo que sugiere melodías, labra en el tiempo una obra de gran serenidad con la absoluta complicidad del contrabajo audaz de Barry Guy y de la batería imaginativa de Ramón López, dos inspirados compañeros de viaje con los que ya había coincidido en proyectos de una sonoridad más vehemente. De más está decir que el protagonismo de estos dos músicos no se limita a meras tareas de acompañamiento. Son numerosas las ocasiones en las que, más allá de una fluida interacción, el instrumento de Guy, por ejemplo, se mantiene solo en primer plano. En esos momentos, son especialmente atractivos sus pasajes con arco.

No es extraño que un disco tan intimista abra precisamente con “Can Ram”, inspirada en el lugar en el que vive Agustí, un tema de una sugerente delicadeza que lleva a Manuel Ferrán a citar certeramente a Frederic Mompou en los textos que acompañan a esta edición (compositor que el pianista ya había visitado a dúo con Marylin Crispell en Dark nights, and luminous). Ese clima de afectiva cercanía se respira también en composiciones tan personales como “David M.” (dedicada a David Mengual), con un exquisito toque espaciado; “Don Miguel” (un recuerdo para el primer profesor de piano de Agustí), con una espléndida introducción de Barry Guy; y “Rosalía”, con nervio, intensa, de un ritmo inquietante.
“Aurora”, uno de los temas de mayor vuelo de Camallera, cuenta en esta ocasión con dos lecturas de gran lirismo a cargo de Agustí Fernández y Ramón López. “Please, let me sleep” es quizá la balada más explícita del álbum, con unos recurrentes juegos melódicos del pianista sobre una base rítmica, aquí más ortodoxa, pero siempre creativa.

Guy aporta su composición “Odyssey” (de la suite Inscape-Tableaux), que algunos ya conocerán de su versión con la Barry Guy New Orchestra, servida aquí por un trío que es todo un ejemplo de interacción. Y de la misma manera que Fernández tiene a su cargo los preludios de “David M.” o “Please let me sleep” y Barry Guy, el de “Don Miquel”, Ramón López se encarga de la introducción de “Umaneta”, desplegando un manto sonoro sobre el que luego entran las líneas del piano y el contrabajo a componer un dibujo de reposada belleza que cierra un disco que dan ganas de volver a escuchar una y otra vez.
Una obra luminosa y conmovedora, un amanecer en el Mediterráneo.



Germán Lázaro, Cuadernos de Jazz

MÚSICA CALLADA
No, no es que la música de este trío no nos diga nada, sino que hace referencia a la que tal vez sea la principal obra de un compositor catalán al que Agustí Fernández, como autor de todos los temas del cedé menos de uno, parece tener muy presente: Federico Mompou. Como en la pintura de Vermeer o en el cine de Bresson, para el viejo maestro “la mejor palabra es la palabra no dicha”. Con una determinación incontestable, la música de Fernández, Guy y López se basa en recursos que como la elipsis, la sugerencia, o la evocación hoy no están muy en boga (lamentablemente, todo hay que decirlo). El resultado, Aurora, es un disco del todo inusual por estos lares (y poco habitual fuera, también hay que decirlo). Música que se escucha con calma, hoy, y que invita a ser completada, terminada, llenada por el oyente. Las composiciones de Fernández surgen de muy adentro, con temas muy relacionados con su vida (Can Ram, Aurora, Don Miquel), y para cada una de ellas hay un sinfín de recursos estilísticos. Alejado aparentemente de su torrencial y tayloriano carácter como intérprete (excepto en Rosalia), Fernández se revela aquí como un pianista sensible y dominador del tiempo como pocos, alentizándolo, replegándolo y expandiéndolo. Por su parte, Guy y López no son meros acompañantes: el primero atesora un conocimiento del contrabajo que le hace tomar siempre las decisiones más inteligentes, con frecuencia geniales (como en la intro de Don Miquel); López está especialmente inspirado a la hora de crear lo más difícil para un baterista, el acompañamiento rítmico idóneo (juguetón, grácil, etéreo) para un trío como este, un “trío slow”. Y, hablando de esto, y habida cuenta de que el segundo corte, David M, no está dedicado a otro que a David Mengual, quisiera recordar el proyecto que éste y Fernández se traían entre manos hará un par de años, y que se llamaba precisamente Slow. En fin, que este Aurora debería pasar a formar parte de cualquier discografía de jazz (contemporáneo, si quieren) que se precie.


ANOTHER TURN OF THE SCREW

Once all the rules of the game have been abolished, the iconoclast still has one more step to take: to salvage the abandoned rule and apply it, without restraint this time, in total independence. From this standpoint, no follower of Agustí Fernández, that convulsive, torrential pianist, will be surprised by the sea change brought about in Aurora, an album of ultra-concentrated sonority, long eloquent silences, enlivening interactions and material that seems to have emerged from remote remembrance and to be retained in the memory in an immediate way, like a succession of precise yet enigmatic melodies. Nothing to do, it appears, with the abstract and prepared piano works that have marked Fernández’s career and made him known as a leading exponent of free improvisation. It is true: there is a radical difference between this and his earlier piano work in terms of procedure, based on a very different approach to the instrument: where there was massive action, spasmodic, hammering attack, here is plain serenity and singable touches, the caress of the sweetened pill, even balsamic effects. But the purpose is probably the same: restless non-conformist exploration of inner resources, recondite echoes. Agustí Fernández’s agonising search, at his most warlike, for battle without quarter now becomes an insistent diving to seek materials that remain floating amid the pauses of unresolved sounds. Let there be no mistake: Agustí Fernández is still the same energetic, plethoric pianist as ever, but in this case has decided to practice a new form of exuberance, one full of burgeoning silences and undulating emotions. The energy is the same: energy that is created and is destroyed, concentrated now in obsessive attention to detail, in the interweaving of nuanced sonority and persuasive echo, in the painstaking deployment of open spaces.

In this provocative journey towards lost innocence, the pianist imposes restraint in the use of instrument not only upon himself, but also asks his colleagues Barry Guy and Ramón López, to simplify their interventions in a similar way. Who would have thought it of these three indomitable, red-hot hyper-virtuosos? However, this three-way understanding goes back a long way, for they have been generating high-voltage spontaneous combustion together in different formats for years, and their communication floats to the surface light and serene, stripped of all solemnity, as naturally some recently-engendered creature begins to move. This new affective fabric, over and above instrumental virtuosity and the mere concept of accompaniment, takes a productive “less is more” as its watchword, obeying the call to “reduce, reduce, reduce” in a detailed work of discarding, generating an environment of freedom in which players come in and drop out again in a strange mixture of independence and common agreement. Discursive intimacy and lyrical circulation make their mark lightly from the first.

Can Ram is the name of the place where Agustí Fernández lives and, indeed, something with an affinity to his world seems to emerge from the subtle dialogue established between two simple and distant harmonic fields. There is a vague, probably involuntary reminiscent touch of the allusive and elusive intimate style of the Catalan composer Frederic Mompou, one of whose songs is performed by Agustí Fernández and Marilyn Crispell on the record Dark Night, and Luminous.

In David M, dedicated to the Catalan double bass player David Mengual, the piano enters with a highly vocalised air, soon established a clearly defined 3/4 tempo (unlike anything in the rest of the album) over which fluctuates a simple harmonic sequence in complete flexibility and the appearance of an impromptu in the making. Well into the piece, notes are added to this, deep, low pitched sounds from the double bass and the drum beat, light and generously spaced. Aurora, which already featured on the last piano-only album, Camallera, reappears here as a duet between airy percussion and a tremulous piano whose phrasing, with trills and appoggiatura or grace notes, give the piece something of an archaic air. Barry Guy uses his double bass as a polyphonic instrument with clearly Bachian reminiscences in his long intro to Don Miquel. This composition, which Agustí Fernández dedicates to his piano teacher during the years he spent in Majorca, is based on a clearly recognisable melodic line with a touch of Moorish melisma, could well be the echo of some unspecified paradise lost on the Mediterranean island. The classical base provided by the double bass and the ethnic touch added by the use of Indian tablas strengthen this sense of timeless evocation even more.

There is an evident contrast between the simplicity of the melody in Rosalia – in fact, this is a sequence that is repeated, descending by thirds – and the continuous rhythmic activity that accompanies it below, like an underground river, giving it life. The piano, against the swirling background provided by the double bass, ends the piece just as gently as it began, but gathering a certain pace and speed now, with a high sharp pitch, as if caught up by the exaltation of the drumsticks as they play on the metal surface. Please, Let Me Sleep is the only unmistakable ballad in this entire collection of heterodox ballads. Its slow tempo glides along effortlessly, the brushes are used in classic style, the double bass seems to float in deep space, and the succession of melodic piano variations, played at medium register, letting the notes resound, finally brings forth the melody, without half measure, yet without allowing its harmonic resolution to take place, maintaining a gentle, drowsy effect that transcends the sound itself.

Odyssey, the only piece on the album not by Agustí Fernández, was composed by Barry Guy and comes from the Inscape-Tableaux suite, recorded by the Barry Guy New Orchestra. Its adaptation for performance by a trio features double bass using unison harmonics and a piano picking out bare, chord less notes to create a geometric landscape that seems designed for the three corners of the triangle to listen to each other during the interruptions in phrasing and in the ritual of repeated notes. After a new take from Aurora, an imaginative introduction by Ramón López leads into Umaneta, an invented word that could well conceal an allusion to the unknown, tipping its cap to the verbal mischief that the Catalan poet Joan Brossa enjoyed so much. With the pedal open, in C minor, piano and double bass glean different material bordering the margins of the concise motif, stripped of all rhetoric, which finally emerges.

Manuel Ferrand
Seville, 2006