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CD Review: Volcano Radar - Paquito Libre

Volcano Radar Paquito Libre

Paquito D’Rivera - Clarinet, alto sax

Elbio Barilari - Electric viola, electric guitar, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, bass

clarinet, bandoneon, Fender Rhodes, electric bass, birimbao, electronics

Julia A. Miller - guitar synth, electric guitar, electric bass

Darwin Noguera - piano, Hammond B3 organ, keyboards

Rollo Radford - electric bass

Ernie Adams - drums, percussion

The tense and atmospheric Paquito Libre is the first collaboration between clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and the electroacoustic ensemble Volcano Radar. The co-leaders of the latter, guitarist Julia A. Miller and multi-instrumentalist Elbio Barilari are also the new owners of Delmark Records and the album is their debut on the label. The free flowing and cinematic work encompasses elements of a variety of styles and is refreshingly inventive and spontaneous.

"East Pole West Pole”, for instance, opens with expectant, rock influenced vamps and ethereal sound effects. D’Rivera’s agile clarinet weaves eloquent and lyrical lines within the percussive rhythmic backdrop. The title track, on the other hand, is jazzier with an energetic head on either end. D’Rivera lets loose fiery saxophone staccato phrases over riotous refrains. Miller takes a contemplative solo that contrasts and complements D’Rivera’s.

The cinematic “Afterimages” is sparse and elegiac. Barilari blows, pensive, wailing notes on his trumpet while Miller and drummer Ernie Adams contribute angular, intriguing refrains. Meanwhile the nocturnesque “Just Before Midnight” features keyboardist Darwin Noguera’s resonant and cascading piano and Barilari’s mellow flugelhorn. Bassist Rollo Radford’s thumping chords and D’Rivera’s reverberating clarinet add a dark edge to the tune.

The band demonstrates delightful and captivating synergy among its members. For example, “The Quark and the Jaguar” is an introspective and meandering piece. Miller, D’Rivera and Barilari’s individual stream of consciousness “monologues” overlap with the right amount of haunting dissonance. Adams’ rustling percussion brings earthy undertones to the group performance.

It is almost a cliché, although completely accurate, to point out that Sound has not “aged”. Its creative impact is still fresh and raw over half a century later. Historically it was the first AACM recording and one on which Mitchell performed with two of his future bandmates in the Art Ensemble of Chicago, trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist Malachi Favors. Apart from this, rather concrete, reason the album’s importance lies in its revolutionary approach to extemporization paving the way for many others that followed Mitchell and his sextet on this path.

The exploration of silent pauses and unorthodox tonal colors together with the unhurried pace of the improvisations mark the title track. The stylistic abstractness was novel in 1966 and it remains innovative to this day as its freshness endures. The spontaneous, stream of consciousness “soliloquys” that waver between the fiery and dissonant to melancholic and haunting stimulate and move in a singular way. They are contemplative and provocative as well as passionate with a visceral punch.

Paquito Libreis simultaneously futuristic and rooted in the jazz movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The unique quartet and its likeminded guests defy narrow genrism for a unique disc that engrosses with its dense, intricate ambience and electrifies with its shimmering melodies. This is a recording that should have a wide appeal.

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