Review: Paolo Fresu and Dino Rubino bring a touch of class to Sala Clamores, Madrid

Paulo Fresu| © Svíčková/WikiCommons

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

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Guernica and Reina Sofia

Over seven metres long and three metres tall, it dwarfs the other canvases in the room, a riot of severed limbs and contorted faces painted in black, white and grey. You can’t help but meet the wild eyes of the horse, trace the outline of its bared teeth and the diamond shaped gash down its side, or feel the pain of the mother who cradles a dead child in her arms. I claim no expertise when it comes to art, but I know that few paintings have gripped me the way that this one does.

You shouldn’t leave Madrid without visiting Reina Sofia, the city’s museum of 20th century art, and you can’t end a visit without fighting through the crowds and seeing the meticulously rendered chaos of Guernica, Picasso’s depiction of a Civil War bombing raid on a town in northern Spain.

Yet, while Guernica is the artwork that garners the most attention, it’s far from the only thing worth seeing in the museum’s galleries. There are the sun-dappled marble fountains and modernist creations in the sculpture garden and a series of unsettling bronze busts by Thomas Schütte in the hallway on the ground floor. Amongst the bare brickwork of the museum’s vaults is a temporary installation by South African artist Tracy Rose. Dimly lit, featuring a striped parasol, a mound of glitter and powdered pigment, a disco ball, and a speaker that rattles and wheezes like an iron lung, it’s disorientating in the best of senses.

On the second floor are works by Palencia and Miró and an impressive collection of Dalís, filled with surrealist symbolism. A group of portly Americans in shorts are huddled around one entitled El enigma de Hitler which depicts a twisted black form recalling the jaws of an ant, a dripping umbrella, and a crumpled photograph of the dictator.

Elsewhere, there are more Picassos – including Mujer en azul, a portrait of a sour-faced woman wearing a meringue of a dress and a black hat garlanded with flowers – cubist still lifes by Juan Gris and photographs of posturing matadors by Alfonso Sánchez Portela. There’s a room filled with pot plants that is dominated by a wooden bird cage housing live parrots, and there are screens showing black and white films of Spanish guerillas with old carbines and cloth caps.

In fact, there’s so much worth seeing that it becomes a little overwhelming and I opt to take a break before exploring the rest in the afternoon. Choosing the stairs over the glass lifts that glide up and down the outside of the building, I find myself confronted by a silent group of women in pale blue uniforms that look like doctors’ scrubs.

Maybe it’s my art befuddled brain or the fact that I’ve come to expect masterpieces wherever I look, but there’s something calming about the hiss of their mops on the rough stone steps and for a split second I wonder if I’ve stumbled upon a mundane but strangely engaging piece of performance art. It says a lot about a gallery when even the cleaners are artists.

– Thomas Rees

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