Reviews The Sudden Bird of Waiting

Portuguese violist Ernesto Rodriques has appeared as a leader/co-leader on almost two-hundred recordings. He has recorded with The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, the Luso-Scandinavian Avant Music Orchestra, and several other ensembles. Rodriques was in Lisbon in 2018 when Portuguese native Abdul Moimême and American saxophonist Patrick Brennan were recording their duo venture Terraphonia (Creative Sources Recordings, 2019). At Rodriques’ suggestion, the artists launched a project that would pair their experimental skills with an improvising Lisbon string quartet. The resulting album, The Sudden Bird of Waiting, is an unusually creative collection that defies description.

Brennan’s saxophone (and occasionally, cornet) can be an unfathomable portal to a different musical language, and Moimême’s dual customized electric guitars are played together with a bow or other device, and prepared with an assortment of items. The string quartet is a variation here; violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Except for Brennan, the artists had collectively worked on Sul (Creative Sources, 2018), a large ensemble free improvisation project that included percussionist Andrew Drury. Bassist Hernâni Faustino appeared with Jon Irabagon on Absolute Zero (Not Two Records, 2013), and on Birthmark (Clean Feed, 2017) with Lotte Anker. Miguel Mira has worked extensively with Rodrigues across a dozen recordings, including Incidental Projections (Creative Sources, 2017) with Fred Lonberg-Holm.

The music on The Sudden Bird of Waiting cannot be described in conventional terms. “O largo aberto das diafonias alertas” rises out of silence, carefully ticking off the contributors and building to a fully engaged sextet. In its late stages the piece takes on a grounded solemnity, but at all points in its thirteen minutes it suggests a surreal consciousness. An interchange between Brennen and Faustino begins “Deslize Möbial. The strings then take the piece on an open-ended colloquy. “Nextness” is driven by the persistent alto, broken up by a rhythmic Brennan spoken word reading of a Randee Silv passage. On “A que distância?” the instruments appear as physical motions, never quite falling in line with each other but aware—and empathetic—of the surrounding movement.

There is a lot of complicated unpacking to do here, but much of The Sudden Bird of Waiting has an inexplicable warmth even in its overt abstraction. Like Brennen and Moimême’s previous work, much of the interest is generated by the sextet giving alternate voices to their instruments. Moimême often shape-shifts in his adherence between strings and saxophone, when he isn’t emitting hybrid sounds. It makes tracking his influence challenging, but that is by design. This is daring experimental music, spontaneous and cerebral. Karl Ackermann




In 2018, New York-based alto saxophonist Patrick Brennan and Lisbon-based prepared guitarist Abdul Moimême recorded the duo CD Terraphonia (Creative Sources). The two had been long-acquainted but their usual orientations were significantly different, Brennan working in the free reaches of jazz, Moimême very much a free improviser. While Brennan is part of a continuum marked by Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman, Moimême often stands between two horizontal instruments, sometimes covering them in aluminum sheets and playing them with e-bows and other devices, the results suggesting ensembles led by John Cage and Harry Partch. Together Brennan and Moimême created a kind of dream logic, their materials unalike, the results fused in a new language.

Ernesto Rodrigues, the creative and executive mastermind of Creative Sources, suggested the two record with a quartet of improvising string players, putting together a session for the day following the April 2018 duo recording. One might divide the strings into pairs: Rodrigues, playing viola here, and violinist Maria do Mar are strongly associated with free improvisation; cellist Miguel Mira and bassist Hernâni Faustino are well-known members of the Lisbon free jazz community. It’s often an artificial division, all are actively involved in Rodrigues’ numerous orchestral projects, but Mira and Faustino often provide forceful forward momentum.

The resulting music is a remarkable tapestry, in a sense stretched between the more distinct sonic personalities of Brennan and Moimême, the four string players functioning normatively, with related sounds and similar gestural vocabularies. The five individual pieces flow together almost as a suite, with Brennan sometimes adding elements of surprise. He launches the opening “O largo aberto das diafonias alertas” with cornet flutters, while the central “Nextness” has him declaiming a poem. “A que distância?” places Moimême’s sonic tumult to the fore before introducing discreet string noises, with Brennan’s alto leading a rising assembly of throbbing bass strings and whistling string harmonics.

There is often the sense of imminent subversion here, sudden mutations that carry the music both forward and elsewhere. At times it suggests the superb lyric expression of memorable saxophone and string combinations likeas Charlie Parker and Strings or Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village or just Ornette Coleman and David Izenzon, at most moments though, the group find its own rich and compound ground. As the closing whispers of “O pássaro repentino da espera” appear, one hopes Brennan, Moimême and associates finds further occasions to expand and explore the collaboration. Stuart Broomer



Moving beyond the timeworn concept of a “with strings” sweet lure, multi-instrumentalist Patrick Brennan and five Portuguese string players create spiky transformative collective improvisations. Well versed in these in-a-heartbeat sonic adjustments are violinist Maria do Mar, violist Ernesto Rodriguez, cellist Miguel Mira, bassist Herman Faustino and Abdul Moimême who with objects plays two guitars simultaneously. Moimême and Brennan, who plays cornet and alto saxophone recorded a fine duo session a couple of weeks earlier.

Novelty doesn’t impede innovation and the sextet is in sync from the get go with the guitar(s) and bass driving the animated theme, while the others supplement the exposition with spiccato string thrusts and col legno smacks. As these factors bleed into polyphony, Brennan often challenges the narrative with tremolo interjections or uses downwards sputters or snorting split tones to signal a logical climax. While he projects an occasional brass bite and roaring blank verse on “Nextness”, the emphasis throughout is on reed techniques which range from altissimo cries to low-toned buzzing smears. Instructively though “Nextness” includes a quieter largo section to better appreciate the intricate string intersections. Here and elsewhere the string section adapts and propels the exposition chromatically. Yet the ensemble affiliation is supplemented by brief arco or pizzicato projections, including mandolin-like stropping from one individual, squeaking multi-string sawing from another and Moimême’s shrill distorted dual rumbles.

Before the multiphonic suite dissolves completely on the concluding “O pássaro repentino da espera” proof of the strings adding another sound dimension through swelling and contracting undulations has been aptly demonstrated. The program is so strong that reading the phrase “with strings” applied to a Jazz session in future may suggest an alternate definition. Ken Waxman 



Back in spring 2018, New York City alto saxophonist/composer patrick brennan revisited Lisbon. While living there in the 1990s he’d become involved with the Portuguese improvised music community; his return to Lisbon put him once again in the company of the city’s improvisers and resulted in two exhilarating recordings: 2019’s Terraphonia, a duet with electric guitarist and sound artist Abdul Moimême, and now the newly released The Sudden Bird of Waiting.

Like Terraphonia, The Sudden Bird of Waiting was recorded in April, 2018 in Lisbon’s Namouche Studios. Here, brennan is heard mostly on alto saxophone but also occasionally on cornet and jaguar, the latter being an ancient Mesoamerican wind instrument producing a gusty, unpitched sound. In contrast to the earlier set, which explores timbral polarities within the restricted intimacy of the duet, The Sudden Bird of Waiting, which finds brennan alongside of a string quartet of violin (Maria do Mar), viola (Ernesto Rodrigues), cello (Miguel Mira) and double bass (Hernâni Faustino) along with Moimême on two electric guitars played simultaneously and objects, is an essay in the complex sonorities of the contemporary chamber ensemble.

Although the music on the album is fully improvised, the cohesion of the strings and guitars on the one side, and the forceful solo voice of the alto saxophone on the other, give the group’s sound a structural coherence that transcends the momentary alliances that typically form and disperse in the flow of spontaneous music. In fact it is this play of difference separating brennan’s saxophone from the strings and guitars that gives the performance the feel of a multi-movement concerto for alto saxophone and chamber orchestra. Here as on his other recordings, brennan is a compelling soloist. His saxophone emerges as a well-defined, hard-edged line standing out against and weaving through the surrounding masses of sound; these latter consist in an elaborately textured structure built up from the full range of extended and conventional performance techniques present to hand for contemporary players—something of a signature sound for Rodrigues and the string players associated with him. The track Nextness introduces a new element into the mix—the spoken word, in the form of brennan’s dramatic reading of poet Randee Silv’s verbal composition by that name. Silv’s anti-narrative of juxtaposed images and creatively dismantled semantics—a kind of extended technique for language—is perfectly at home in these surroundings.  Daniel Barbiero



O saxofonista alto norte-americano Patrick Brennan já viveu uns anos em Portugal – hoje instalado na cidade de Nova Iorque (é originário de Detroit), volta e meia vem ao nosso país para tocar com os amigos que por cá deixou (muito especialmente Abdul Moimême, com quem estabeleceu fortes ligações musicais, e que também participa neste “The Sudden Bird of Waiting”) e outros que a ele se juntem. Foi o que aconteceu em 2018 e agora tem a forma de CD. Brennan também toca violino (e corneta, como aqui ouvimos), pelo que a sua combinação com cordas de arco surgiu muito naturalmente. Maria do Mar em violino – já numa altura em que estava a destacar-se na cena portuguesa –, Ernesto Rodrigues na viola, Miguel Mira no violoncelo e Hernâni Faustino no contrabaixo são os seus interlocutores, com Moimême a acrescentar uma dimensão electroacústica com as suas duas guitarras eléctricas preparadas e utilizadas em simultâneo – discreta na maior parte dos casos, só ganhando maiores contornos nas duas últimas faixas, “A que Distância?” e “O Pássaro Repentino da Espera”. A instrumentação, os nomes em presença e o facto de esta ser uma edição da Creative Sources faziam prever que este seria um álbum de música livremente improvisada, mas se a improvisação é integral de facto, este é um dos poucos títulos conotados com o free jazz no catálogo da editora dirigida por Rodrigues. Nada tem da fórmula “Charlie Parker with Strings”, como seria de esperar, mas também poucos vínculos mantém com “Skies of America” de Ornette Coleman. Imaginem as units de Cecil Taylor com Michel Samson ou Ramsey Ameen com mais adições cordofónicas e tirem o piano da equação: mais próximos estarão do tipo de situação que neste registo é explorado. Patrick Brennan não é um Jimmy Lyons, mas as referências auditivas vão inevitavelmente para esse lado. Os equilíbrios e (intencionais) desequilíbrios musicais estão entre o sax alto de um lado e o naipe violino-viola-violoncelo-contrabaixo do outro, com a nossa atenção em permanente pingue-pongue de um lado para o outro. E se ouvir o alto de Brennan (e o seu “spoken word” em “Nextness”) é um prazer, o extraordinário mesmo é o entrosamento que do Mar, Rodrigues, Mira e Faustino conseguem estabelecer entre si. Uma delícia de disco. Rui Eduardo Paes,