«Eudaimonia» is an old Greek word for happiness and if translated literally means: human flourishing or prosperity. It is also the title of the sophomore album of Portuguese Nau quartet led by alto sax José Lencastre, following the acclaimed «Fragments of Always» (FMR, 2017). This free-jazz quartet features two-thirds of the local RED Trio – pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro and bass player Hernâni Faustino – plus drummer João Lencastre.
«Eudaimonia», like half of the debut album, is built as a six-parts suite, titled after syllables of the ancient Greek word, and captured in studio on April 2018, 16 months after the recording of the debut album in the same studio. Nau Quartet suggests a highly personal formula of European free jazz, focusing on open structures that develops organically. The expanded rhythm section often opts for a fast and muscular tone, eager to take risks and explore more and more confrontational aspects of a restless interplay. But the leader Lencastre flies above, navigating the quartet with quiet, nuanced gestures and offering a lyrical, round tone that counteracts the dense and thorny one of Pinheiro, Faustino and drummer Lencastre.
The quartet manages to keep this kind of interplay in a reserved and well-balanced form on the opening, longest piece «Eu», but already on the second piece «Da», Lencastre and the rhythm section are riding head-on for a series of intense collisions. Lencastre sounds as playing ‘Inside’, following a powerful yet very clear narrative that marks where the quartet would flow while the other musicians are playing ‘outside’, pushing for a chaotic, nervous interplay. But throughout these ongoing collisions both sides read and respond to each other. Lencastre shout on the coda of «Da», as well as his passionate, singing, Ornette Coleman-ish tone on the following «I», «Mo» and «Ni», stress clearly the destinations and the dynamics of these pieces. The last piece «A» is a fast and playful chasing game between Lencastre and the rhythm section.
Furthermore. «Eudaimonia» captures beautifully José Lencastre wise leadership and his strong personal voice. Lencastre acts like an enlightened leader we all wish we would have in our governments. A leader who trusts his comrades, with no need to assert his dominant power with aggressive, sonic stunts. A leader who has no need for a big, loud stick, just a passionate, poetic voice.
José Lencastre (as), Rodrigo Pinheiro (p), Hernâni Faustino (b), João Lencastre (dr)
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