Reviews Domino Doubles

I spend a lot of time thinking about space in music. Two recent duo recordings with Portuguese bassist Hernâni Faustino are especially evocative of musical space: Domino Doubles is full of it, Falaise makes you aware of it. Music often implies structure that goes beyond the mere arrangement of its elements. It’s easy to forget that sound is utterly immersive; you can’t turn off your hearing, and you can’t ignore the subtle information sound coveys about your surroundings. This is coding that music can tap into as well, and it can set off our synapses in all kinds of suggestive ways. The ears can create a map or image in the mind just as easily as the eyes can.

Superficially, Domino Doubles and Falaise are very similar. Close listening reveals different improvisational angles and recording approaches, however. Domino Doubles matches Faustino with musical polymath Heddy Boubaker on alto and bass sax, a pairing that places a lot of emphasis on aesthetic, compositional space (in the sense that you’re making decisions about the arrangement of sounds during improvisation). On Falaise (with Pedro Sousa on tenor), what’s evoked is actual physical space as conveyed through sound— aural architecture.

Faustino is obviously the shared link here. He’s amassed a lot of improvising credibility through his membership in RED Trio. Though they heroically attempt to overcome most limitations, Faustino is usually pitted against two instruments that are fairly inflexible in terms of pitch: piano and drums. It’s refreshing to hear him in a more fluid context, especially with two players so skilled in extending the expressive range of the saxophone. Boubaker’s technique may be a bit more subtle, esoteric even, but Sousa has an impressive command of the outer-reaches of the tenor for such a new face on the scene. Faustino is clearly inspired in both pairings, though he often defers to Boubaker on Domino Doubles.

 Both are headphone albums. Domino Doubles seems to materialize from somewhere inside your head. Boubaker has a fine-spun control over his signal, bleeding overtones that feel like some kind of trippy inner-skull resonance.  There are small, breathy gestures, splintered harmonics, peals of arco sawing, bent notes. Much care is given to the placement of sounds, perhaps as much as the choice of sounds themselves. Tones linger, are allowed to settle and vanish. With so much riding on the details, both players are pristinely recorded. Falaise can seem just the opposite. Fine minutiae give way to the force of combined sound. The recording is clear, but it’s as though one microphone is placed close to Faustino, and Sousa’s long, rich tones seep in from somewhere across the room. The sense of the playing space is palpable, and the two capitalize on this natural resonance by converging on tones or crafting repetitive motifs that meld together into complex drones.

In these duos, space is made real through the fullness of reverberating sound, or thrown wide by the silences in the music. One traces the acoustics of a performance space, the physical potential of sound as it’s shaped by matter, the warm aura as lambent tones redouble and re-cross. The other drops charges into the echoless darkness inside your skull, pits sound against sound, like searing drips of color that burn brightly against a canvas of negative space. Neither should be missed.  Daniel Sorrells


Saxophonist Heddy Boubaker and bassist Hernani Faustino have more in common than their love for improvised music. Both began their musical journeys playing in rock bands, before harkening to the call of free music.

Boubaker was born in Marseilles in 1963 and began what he calls experimenting with music in 1977. First came rock and then punk, before he put his guitar aside and picked up alto and bass saxophones. His muse, now improvised music, is a perfect fit for his manifestations, with an uncanny ability to fathom the unknown and find the unseen cord. His sense of timing and invention, and his ability to probe musical depths make for an eloquent aesthetic.

Faustino moved away from the alternative rock scene in Portugal to teach himself the bass and find his nook in avant-garde jazz. His reputation has seen him forge alliances with artists including Taylor Ho BynumJohn Butcher and Federico Ughi. And now comes his meeting with Boubaker in the aptly heady kinship of Domino Doubles.

Freedom offers space, either to be lost in or to find its centrifugal force. Boubaker and Faustino spar, converge, converse and soliloquize with a sense of perception and adventure that makes listening to them a treat. The force is with them.

The bass strings flutter, the saxophone is tongue-slapped and then torqued with eerie notes as “Circus at Midnight” opens. The atmosphere is gradually depth charged, the rumble of the bass met with fibrillating saxophone lines. Faustino and Boubaker find common terrain in criss-crossing patterns before they draw back and let an eloquent calm descend. The parts make for a compact whole.

Boubaker finds a melody on “Changing a Light Bulb” that he bends into various shapes. He cuts deep, he screeches, he twitters lightly, his notes now like dancing specks of sunlight. Faustino weaves in and out of alto saxophone lines and then notches it up with fevered bowing as Boubaker scuttles into the fervor. The momentum stills and the notes of the horn glide in to the temperate pulse of the bass. The dynamics are striking.

Boubaker and Faustino are versatile and effective as they take improvisation to impressive highs. Jerry D’Souza


A sax-bass improvisational duet depends for its success on the abilities of the players to come up with captivating moods and modes, with expressive and productive spontaneity.

So a meeting of Heddy Boubaker, alto and bass saxes, and Hernani Faustino, contrabass, on their CD Domino Doubles(re:konstruKt 057) should be evaluated in those terms.

First off both players have plenty of avant credentials and we needn’t rehearse them here. Second, the range of timbres produced by Faustino’s bass and Boubaker’s bass and alto saxes is considerable. Hernani gets bowed subtones, percussive cascades of abstract phrases, harmonics and the sheer sensuality of the force of bow and fingers against strings. Heddy responds with a full spectrum of avant sax sound-producing techniques: breathy whispers, subtones and “swallowed” notes, full voices and harmonic grittiness. The bass sax brings a special sound to the ensemble and Boubaker does well getting the behemoth to speak nicely. Both players come up with lines of interest when they are not concentrating on timbre.

The session succeeds. It succeeds because both artists are well-attuned to one another and have the imaginative and creative inspiration to work together along with the technical prowess to make it possible.

Duets such as these aren’t designed to sell huge numbers of CD copies. They are disciplined statements on the art of bare-bones freedom. This is an excellent example. Grab it if you can!

Grego Applegate Edwards 


O contrabaixista Hernâni Faustino é um dos eixos do RED trio. O grupo de Faustino, Gabriel Ferrandini (bateria) e Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano) conseguiu afirmar-se solidamente como um dos mais excitantes grupos do jazz criativo dos últimos anos e além de ter definido um som próprio – herdeiro do jazz mas aberto a contaminações, democrático e original – o trio luso mostrou-se exímio na colaboração com nomes grandes da cena mundial, como aconteceu com o saxofonista John Butcher (cf. Empire) ou com o trompetista Nate Wooley (cf. o recente Stem). Fora do contexto do trio o contrabaixista apresenta agora dois trabalhos, ambos em duo, onde o seu instrumento resolve confrontar saxofones.

Em Falaise, uma edição da lusa Dromos Recordings, o contrabaixo de Faustino enfrenta o saxofone tenor de Pedro Sousa – membro dos grupos ACRE, Canzana, eitr e, sobretudo, Pão (atenção ao novíssimo disco homónimo, edição Sshpuma). Sousa e Faustino desenvolvem um diálogo improvisado áspero, revelando uma enorme urgência, numa estratégia de choque constante. Ambos os músicos servem-se de recursos menos típicos – sons da respiração, uso percussivo das chaves, no caso do saxofone; utilização original do pizzicato e do arco, no caso do contrabaixo. Em qualquer dos casos, os músicos procuram os sons que façam a música evoluir e, sendo o caminho por vezes radical, interessa mais que tudo o resultado final – os processos ou pormenores fazem parte do percurso. Urgente, ainda que não sempre bruta, a música da dupla Sousa/Faustino é intensamente acesa ao longo das suas quatro peças.

Domino Doubles, edição da label turca re:konstruKt, mostra Faustino na companhia dos saxofones de Heddy Boubaker. Com o multi-instrumentista francês Faustino serve-se da uma estratégia comunicante – semelhante ao disco anterior, mas com resultados distintos. Sendo também um diálogo improvisado, este revela uma maior contenção e tranquilidade – contrastando com a postura predominantemente agreste de Falaise. Esta será uma música aberta, mais ampla, mais espaçosa, mais madura – mas também menos incendiária. Importa sobretudo registar que, independentemente do contexto, podemos contar com um Faustino incessantemente imaginativo.

Nuno Catarino


Este é, muito provavelmente, o último registo em que encontramos o francês Heddy Boubaker a tocar saxofones (alto e baixo). Poucas semanas depois da gravação de “Domino Doubles”, foi-lhe detectada uma deficiência coronária que lhe poderia trazer a morte se continuasse a utilizar instrumentos de sopro. Daqui em diante, ouvi-lo-emos em baixo eléctrico e electrónica. Era o baixo, também, a ferramenta de trabalho do português Hernâni Faustino, antes de a sua transição do rock alternativo para o jazz e para a música improvisada o ter levado a optar pelo mais grave espécime da família do violino. Ora, acontece que Boubaker tocou em bandas punk, pelo que estes dois músicos identificam-se mais do que de uma maneira. O que se pressente no actual diálogo… O especial entrosamento entre ambos faz com que se desloquem sem preconceitos nem hesitações entre as linguagens-tipo da nova e da velha improvisações, numa atitude antidogmática que, logo à partida, é de aplaudir. Rui Eduardo Paes, REP no Sapo Blog


Another collaboration between saxman Heddy Boubaker and bassist (Hernani Faustino (they play together in a couple of bands). Domino Doubles is a studio recording from October 2010. Fluid free improvisation, cerebral at times but always inhabited by a certain sense of urgency. What can I say: I really dig Boubaker’s work (his extended techniques, and most of all the soul in his playing), and Faustino is a custom fit for him.

François Couture