Álvaro Torres Trio: Specious Present

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Born in Madrid in 1993 and now a fixture of the thriving Catalan jazz scene in Barcelona, Torres clearly has a strong fascination with the music of Paul and Carla Bley. This album’s somewhat abstruse title perhaps needs a little explaining, because to a very large extent it defines the trio’s approach to improvisation. In the everyday sense the word “specious” usually denotes something that appears superficially plausible, but which in reality is false. The notion of the “specious present” addresses the latency that occurs when perceptions are processed and reconstructed in real time by the brain, so if the aim is to play “in the moment”, which moment are you hearing?

Torres’s very loose compositional frameworks certainly allow ample space for each of the trio’s members to process and respond to one another’s moves. Unlike Iro Haarla’s recent Bley-themed masterpiece Around Again (TUM Records), the dedications here are a little more oblique. Only track 2 (Carla’s King Korn) actually comes from the Bley canon, the remaining pieces all being brief sketches which invariably channel the spirit of their muse. Hillcrest Club for example is a boppish time-no-changes piece that is clearly inspired by Paul’s 1958 recordings with Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman. King Korn is of a similar vintage, first appearing on Paul Bley’s Footloose (1962-3), and while the trio approach the piece with a fair degree of abstraction, Carla’s whimsy and lightness of touch very definitely shine through.

Abantos veers between spacious free balladry and something altogether more hymnal, while the fractured lyricism of Interlude serves as a transition into the dark and explosive worlds of Symmetries. Torres shadow-boxes with Surmenian’s LaFaro-esque bass on 2&3, while the bustling Raval Blues, named after Barcelona’s historic night-life district, is another appealing free-bop burnout in the Hillcrest vein. The bassist’s Quatorze erects an elaborate frame and houses a complex voice-bass unison, while the closing Like Paul is by some distance the strongest of the disc’s free-ballads.

Much to enjoy here, and moreover it is extremely heartening to find a group of younger musicians drawing inspiration from the still criminally under-appreciated music of the Bleys.

Discography
Hillcrest Club; King Korn; Abantos; Interlude; Symmetries; 2 & 3; Raval Blues; Quatorze; Like Paul (47.22)
Torres (p) with Eric Surmenian (b); Ivo Sans (d). Barcelona, 24 May 2018.
Fresh Sounds New Talent FSNT1018