Review: MUT Trio, Barcelona

Dave Foxall - and lamentably few others - see the 'unique and idiosyncratic' MUT Trio of Miguel Fernández (ts), Albert Juan (elg) and Oriol Roca (d) at Robadors 23, Barcelona

It's criminal, really. A long-standing Barcelona trio with a unique and idiosyncratic style and a repertoire that combines semi-composed themes with quirky improvisation, that somehow manages to unite elements of free jazz with more conventional stylings... and their 27 April 2015 gig at Robadors 23 begins with an audience of four. Now, granted it's a Monday night but come on, Barcelona - make an effort, please!

Having got that off my chest, I have to admit that there was something special about being part of such an exclusive event; and certainly, the small size of the audience didn't seem to dampen the spirits on-stage who dealt out nearly an hour and a quarter of exquisite music...

One thing the MUT Trio does not do is hurry. In fact, time seemed to slow in the presence of Tito Juan's atmospheric chording and lingering single notes. Roca enters the picture with some muted sound-making as he runs plastic bags, shells (I think) and other objects over the drum kit. Fernández stands apparently waiting, inactive, with the horn hanging slackly... but faintly the subtle percussive sound of fingers on saxophone keys can be heard. After a single sonic swipe, languorous melodies begin to emerge from Fernández' tenor, as Roca immerses himself in his own rhythmic world, and Juan commences a series of dissonant and angular interpolations (in the mathematical sense rather than the musical). It's a four-way impressionistic soundscape in which silence plays the fourth hand - not for nothing are they named "mut" (Catalan for mute).

Then Fernández adds a brief touch of Coltrane's tone (I'm pretty sure I imagined it, but for a second there I thought he quoted a fragment of A Love Supreme...) and at the same time, Juan dials up the distortion on his Fender amp - there's an instant of juxtaposition and then a rapid and complete dissolution leaving Roca's drums to gently fill the quiet. There's a constant and spiralling progression happening here which nevertheless feels freeform in nature; ever-evolving, never resolving.

The audience swells to six as another theme commences. The tenor drones and weaves, with a subtle hint of North Africa about it, waiting for the guitar (a rather stunning Paul Reed Smith, by the way) to begin a muted engine-like vibrating rhythm. Roca enters into another complex and unpredictable series of patterns which would serve most other drummers as a solo, but here it's simply his agile contribution to the landscape. There's definitely something about the febrile intimacy of these tunes which suits the close environment of Robadors 23. A little later on, Juan digs in with an overdriven tone and Fernández joins him in a simple ascending riff, played in unison, and the combined sound of guitar and saxophone can be felt directly to the chest, not just the ears - a sublime and practically telepathic moment.

MUT trio - if you thought about going and didn't, you should have.

(MUT Trio came together in 2009, and are a self-described, “trio without leaders”. You can find the all latest Mut Trio news on their Facebook page. Unsurprisingly, the gig lacked a photographer; the image shown is from a previous concert at Barcelona’s Jamboree club.)

Words: Dave Foxall (a Jazz Noise)
Photo: Christoph Kirsch


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