Were it not for the pink neon sign outside, or the hastily hung photographs of jazz greats on the walls, you would think that you were in the wrong place. With its mirrored pillars, mustard coloured paintwork and patterned wallpaper, Sala Clamores feels more like a neglected working men’s club than a top draw performance space in a European capital city. But if this first experience of a Madrid jazz venue didn’t quite match my expectations, the music – from veteran Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and pianist Dino Rubino – easily exceeded them.
Appearing as one of the headline acts in city-wide music festival Festimad, the duo have only been performing together since 2012, yet they displayed the kind of sensitivity and communication that usually comes from a far longer musical relationship. Trading ideas and basking in the warmth of Fresu’s flugelhorn, they segued between playfully rendered standards, including ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Almost Like Being in Love’, lilting Rubino originals, and the odd Breton folk song.
Improvisations displayed a similar blend of old and new. At times, Fresu’s elegant lines were pure Chet Baker, yet they took unexpected turns with touches of dissonance and sudden leaps in intensity as they broke into the upper register. Accompanied by the click of Fresu’s ringed finger on the side of the flugel, Rubino unfurled classic bebop phrases that whispered of the blues, unleashing cluster chords and fistfuls of notes on up-tempo numbers before slipping back into the groove.
Fresu’s subtle use of electronics added another dimension to the performance, allowing him to layer and counterpoint his lines while decorating and rounding-off melodies with gentle reverb and puffs of air. Though at times a little clichéd, it provided a welcome change of texture and the only truly misjudged moment of the set was a guest feature from comic Hispano-Italian pop sensation Tonino Caratone who had been lurking in the audience. His strained, over-amplified, vocals on ‘Guarda Che Luna’ elicited grimaces from around the room, and there was audible relief when we quickly returned to the gently swinging melodies and rolling piano chords of the Italian duo.
Filing out in the early hours, there was a contented buzz among the audience and with my mind on the music I hardly noticed the frayed yellow curtains behind the stage, the crudely painted quavers on the air ducts, or the bewildering abundance of fire extinguishers. With acts of this quality, Sala Clamores can get away with it.
– Thomas Rees