ENG New York City Jazz Record, Elliott Simon (jan.2016)

Although the subject of What Is This All About? is left unsaid, Lisbon-based drummer João Lencastre’s Communion may be referring to itself. Their focus, beginning with their 2006 debut, has been Lencastre’s creative interactions with established NYC musicians, like-minded in their eclectic approach, but differing in the routes that got them there. Tunes from and beyond the jazz canon served as platforms for novel treatments. Early on, material from Coltrane to Coleman to Coldplay provided safe harbor. On this, the band’s fourth release, with the exception of pianist Jacob Sacks’ exquisite interpretation of Bach’s “Opus 39, N. 9”, the band discovers itself.
Back are Sacks, alto saxophonist David Binney, trumpeter Phil Grenadier, guitarist André Matos and bassist Thomas Morgan. These sidemen have played with each other often but not necessarily under Lencastre’s leadership. Those experiences add to the diversity, give the session its NYC feel and eliminate indecision as the music horizontally expands through styles and formats. Lencastre’s job is not an easy one but he herds these cats, all leaders, with a long leash.
Morgan’s inclinations are very much in sync with the approach, a measured raggedness resulting from how he and Lencastre fluidly assume their roles as architects, time-keepers, clear respondents, equivocators and colorizers. On the very loose “Picture” they respond to Binney and Grenadier’s explorations by sanctioning dissonant punctuation while they maintain “The Game’s” elegance by not allowing it to stray out of bounds. Matos expands the sound with searing leads on the title track but Sacks uses the opposite approach to open up the borders of a paean to director Stanley “Kubrick”. Each is given their own space, Sacks on the Bach piece and Matos on gorgeous session closer “Alma”, but the listener is left wanting more. While the synthy electronics on a few of these cuts disturbs the organic flow, the answer to the titular inquiry is unquestionably the music.