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Daniel Bernardes & Drumming GP: Liturgy of the Birds – In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen (Clean Feed)

A review of the Portuguese pianist-led group's tribute to the late composer

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Daniel Bernardes & Drumming GP, Liturgy of the Birds – In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen
The cover of Liturgy of the Birds – In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen by Daniel Bernardes & Drumming GP

At a time of decreasing bird populations throughout the world—one in four birds has perished since the 1970s—comes this beautiful tribute to composer Olivier Messiaen, who loved birdsong and notated and used it throughout his music. (The album’s cover art is a bird collage, of sorts.) Portuguese pianist Daniel Bernardes leads a trio including double bassist António Augusto Aguiar and drummer Mário Costa, abetted by Portugal’s Drumming GP: Miquel Bernat on marimba and percussion; Jeff Davis on vibraphone and percussion; João Dias on glockenspiel and percussion; and Pedro Góis on vibraphone and percussion.

Great skill is obviously required to make these many threads mesh, and Bernardes is up to the task, transforming the trio’s underlying lushness with bracing percussion voices that dart over the arrangements in broad, zigzagging shapes. The disc’s five songs are alternately beautiful and invigorating; they race and collide, caress and shock, like a whip made of cotton and ice.

On “19,” ambient chords are offset by chunky rhythms executed on wood blocks, marimba, and drum set, followed by Bernardes’ piano comping and further glock/vibraphone embellishment. “Bolero” oozes the dance rhythm in slow motion, before an abrupt percussion break intrudes and the dance continues. Interlocking rhythms and modulations pulsate freely in “Globular Clusters,” a call and response of hammered sections amid tranquil space. The simple chords of “Sobre Kieslowski I” form a bed over which circular percussion lines dance and spin like a mad chandelier. “Ostinato, Interlúdio e Canção V” closes the album in hypnotic Reichian mode, chattering percussion beating off-time counterpoint scenarios.

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Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.