André Carvalho: The Garden of Earthly Delights (Outside In)

A review of the bassist and composer's third album as a leader

André Carvalho, The Garden of Earthly Delights
The cover of The Garden of Earthly Delights by André Carvalho

André Carvalho named The Garden of Earthly Delights after the Hieronymus Bosch painting of the same title, and the homage doesn’t end there. The intense detail of that medieval triptych inspired the bassist to create a suite that also covers a wide range of moods, from gentle to sinister, alternately flowing without tempo and rocking hard. If the concept sounds heavy-handed or susceptible to pretension, have no fear; Carvalho’s execution avoids those pitfalls.

Part of the allure comes from his orchestration. The frontline consists of trumpeter Oskar Stenmark and tenor saxophonists/flutists Eitan Gofman and Jeremy Powell, who double on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone respectively. Carvalho exploits the horns in unique sonic blends, as on the opening “Prelude” (which is actually a full piece), where they enter in layers. The rhythm section is completed by guitarist André Matos and drummer Rodrigo Recabarren, who frequently lock into edgy vamps that the horns tend to ignore until the writing brings everyone together, often in a new time signature. Matos approximates vicious progressive rock in “The Forlorn Mill.” Carvalho typically works as an anchor, staying in the background. When the bassist takes a solo in the languid “Dracaena Draco,” he plays in an unrushed manner, with a narrative quality similar to Charlie Haden. 

Garden alternates between fully composed works and those that leave room for improvisation. “Evil Parade” has Stenmark and Powell volleying back and forth between 5/4 and 6/8. “The Thinker in the Tavern” comes closest to imagining Bosch as a soundscape, with a rewinding analog-tape fanfare introducing a brooding guitar melody that sounds warped and slowed to half-speed. While the intensity of the album’s last quarter suggests that we’re heading for apocalypse, the gentle bass clarinet and trumpet of “Phowa” close the proceedings like a lullaby at the end of a journey.

Watch the video for “The Forlorn Mill.”

Preview, buy or download The Garden of Earthly Delights on Amazon!

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Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at shanleyonmusic.blogspot.com.