JAZZ.PT

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The veteran drummer who moved from New York to Portugal presents a new record, recorded as a trio with guitarist Vasco Agostinho and bassist João Custódio. "Live at Mobydick Records" shows the trio performing a high intensity jazz. 

 

"From what I've realized, the superior jazz courses in Portugal, in Lisbon and Porto, are very uneven, but they are the pinnacle of an educational experience. I was lucky to have Michael Lauren as a teacher, because he is one of thegreatest examples of what a pedagogical figure should be. Because he has the demanding side, he makes the student work, but he also has the "father" side, which encourages confidence and he will even see you play outside the school context." These words are from Pedro Melo Alves, author of the best record of 2021 according to the jazz.pt team ("Lumina", Clean Feed). In an interview with jazz.pt, published in 2018, the drummer, composer and improviser expressed unabashed admiration for his teacher and mentor. 

Son of New York, Michael Lauren moved to Portugal twenty years ago and, over time, gained status as a key figure in the Portuguese jazz scene. He was the drum teacher at ESMAE for almost two decades, teaching many talents that we hear playing around today, such as Pedro Melo Alves, Marcos Cavaleiro and so many others. Beside his path as an educator, Lauren has developed a relevant work as a drummer, integrating groups such as The Postcard Brass Band, Hugo Alves Quartet or Mário Santos' Quintet "Bloco de Notas". With his group The Michael Lauren All Stars, he recorded the albums "Once Upon a Time in Portugal" (2015) and "Old School / Fresh Jazz" (2018), which are both documents of a living jazz, both heirs of the hardbop tradition. 

Now, the New York drummer explores another dimension: he has just released a new record, "Live at Mobydick Records", recorded as a trio, in the company of guitarist Vasco Agostinho and bassist João Custódio. In an interview to Jazz.pt, Lauren confessed to Eray Aytimur that the origin of this record was not the happiest: "In December of 2020, I was hospitalized with covid. Fortunately, I recovered and I was able to return to performing. During the periods without work, I spent a lot of time practicing, playing, keeping fit and working on new ideas. In the spring of 2021, I was invited to a livestream concert and in preparation for that concert I was composing many new songs, it was a very creative time for me, motivated by the concert.” 

From this process the material for the album was born: the concert took place in the Mobydick recording studio in Braga and was broadcast livestream. Naturally, the music was recorded and, after some minor adjustments, became this album. Different from Michael Lauren's previous works, this record presents a more, dense approach. Stripped down to its essential elements, Lauren's music gains in strength, precision and intensity. 

The album opens with a powerful version of a Sonny Rollins classic, "Biji. Apart from this version that opens the disc, the disc presents only original themes, written by Lauren and also with contributions by Agostinho. In "Ritual do Cabrito" and "Sempre Em Frente" we hear approximations to rock, always with a groove. In contrast, "Bonfim Blues" is a behind the beat blues, and "Looking Back at Life" is a ballad, a captivating theme that gives way to a memorable bass solo by Custódio. Throughout the album, the trio crosses different milieus and the result is a very balanced recording. 

Lauren's precise and energetic drumming guides the group, always attentive; Agostinho's guitar not only delivers, but often manages to steal the attention; and Custódio's bass is a central support. On this album we hear a distinctive facet of Michael Lauren, different from what we knew of him before. Without the involvement and warmth of the "Allstars’” horns, this music is more focused. This is jazz with a rock spirit: there is groove, there is swing, there is melody, there’s feeling, there is lots of energy. At the helm of an impeccable trio, the veteran drummer drives a high-intensity jazz. 

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