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João Paulo: Almas

Portuguese music is often associated with fado, the nostalgic and melancholic musical expression of the soul. While not that form, the modern improvisations on pianist Joao Paulo’s Almas are imbued with fado’s rich emotional feel. On five original compositions by Paulo and two group improvisations, the same trio that recorded Paulo’s previous album, O Exilio, including soprano and alto saxophonist Peter Epstein and bassist Carlos Bica, provides Almas with its musical richness.

Like its title suggests, Almas, a Portuguese word with a multitude of meanings, is a vast musical universe. On “Sombras,” one of the improvised compositions, the introduction’s dissonance slowly changes into a magnificent lyrical piece. The opening track, “F tima,” presents an enchanting Baroque feel mixed with Moorish overtones in the musical duel between Paulo’s piano and Epstein’s sax solos; the composition’s overall brisk pace is contrasted beautifully by some of its tender passages.

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