Luis Vicente – Trumpet
Joao Guimaraes – Alto saxophone
Marcelo Dos Reis – Electric guitar
Jose Miguel Pereira – Double bass
Joao Pais Filipe – Drums
What makes a free improv record successful can be an elusive thing to define. I think it comes down to how well the musicians listen to each other, how skilled they are at interacting, and if they generate some sort of forward momentum. I may be old school in my love of jazz, but for me merely exploring textures doesn't cut it. I still want a sense of the music starting at one point and traveling to another.
I started to wonder about Zero Sum as I began listening to the first track, but my fears were soon allayed. I'm happy to report that the collective known as Fail Better! has documented a successful live concert, one that gets stronger as the record progresses.
The group is good at creating structures in real time. Even though it's free, there are places where each musician has a chance to shine out front, as it were, of the rest of the band. I recently reviewed Clocks and Clouds from a different group also featuring Luis Vicente, and he again impresses here, asserting the trumpet’s natural leadership position while still leaving space for contributions from the rest of the musicians. The other group members were unknown to me, but all acquit themselves well; Dos Reis shows an intriguing approach, using spare single note lines, but also developing monolithic slabs of feedback to ratchet up more intense moments.
Zero Sum is yet another example of the extremely fertile Portuguese jazz scene.