Susana against the monument
Music was, until the advent of electrical amplification, deeply connected with the space where it was performed. The Gregorian chant was created for the reverberative space of Gothic cathedrals and the string quartets sound better in an XVIIIth century palatial room, between woods and stucco.
Written music has a sound dimension attached to it that does not allow much flexibility outside the architectural space for which it was intended. Not that a string quartet cannot be played outdoors, but it will sound sheepish, just as polyphony will suffer if it is sung in a small room.
Improvisation is not limited by space, as it is “site specific” as it is called in fine arts jargon. It lives from the moment and space and reads it. More than that, listens to it. This is the great practice of the improviser, of listening to the music while it is being created, of listening to the other musicians, the room and the end result simultaneously.
This new album by Susana Santos Silva holds the music of the solo concert that opposed her to the marble of the Portuguese National Pantheon (and vice versa) on February 12, 2016. She came alone with her trumpet and explored the immense sound of the temple, its long reverberation; a slim female figure, full of courage, shrouded in the sovereign enormity of the church that guards those who resist death. We almost hear her think as she experiments new ideas, talking with the echo, taking advantage of the response given by the stone walls. The music, almost magical, frees itself from the trumpet and returns to it, transformed by the architecture, to once again return to the room, in a continuum. There is a tension between the walls, which decline the sounds, and the trumpet that seeks to widen them, renewing the spirit and the poetics of that place.
While the trumpet blew, the Pantheon lived a joyful, human, not so majestic solemnity. This recording captures the beauty of that day, delicate and at the same time unrestrained, that reminds us that we have to take care of the living and believe that the world tends for the better. There are not many records like this. (Liner notes by Gonçalo Falcão)
“All the Rivers is Santos Silva’s first solo album and it is superb” AAJ
“The inherent limitations of the instrument require the sort of imaginative and resourceful mind that Susana Santos Silva is fortunate to possess”
“It would be remarkable if Santos Silva merely explored the sound of the space, its shifting echoes and durations, but she does far more. She creates a profound, subtly evolving work that engages the possibilities of the trumpet and the building as if they were paired, like the two resonators on a veena”
Free Jazz Blog
“It’s recorded live, without overdub, all raw, and it’s beautiful… The resolution is poetic and spiritual.” Le Soir MAD
Touching Extremes April 2018
Focus for a moment on a close-up of Susana Santos Silva. One in particular – a black and white portrait – coerces the observer’s attention on a pair of eyes suggesting a physical and mental wholeness identifiable with a single word: courage.
It takes indeed a substantial amount of bravery to face a crowd all alone, even if supported by the physics of high-ceilinged oscillation. The former church of Santa Engrácia in Lisbon – subsequently converted into the National Pantheon – decided that the intrepid trumpeter deserved some assistance in manifesting her commitment on February 12, 2016. The outcome is an album where the correspondence between silence, extended tones, broken bursts and long-lasting echoes is nearly optimal. The audience’s quietness contributes to outline the acoustic interrelations pertinent to a veritable process of self-exploration.
Accordingly, each sound – including the percussive ones, as Santos Silva occasionally introduces small bells and tin whistle – uses to good advantage the venue’s shapes and characteristics. Never released in excess of “just a few”, the notes are still enough to suggest implicit tensions and subsequent liberations. The emotional impact may be somewhat mitigated by the sheer length of the reverberations, but the crucial meaning arrives distinct and unequivocal.
Santos Silva plays inside. Inside herself first and foremost, and within the components of the pitches. She also generates compelling microtonal shifts to improve the music’s constitutive harmony. The solitary performer’s convergence with the molecular aspects of timbral research is thus complete; we almost envision rays of light entering the building to cut the scene at various heights.
A musical instrument in the right hands contains the codes to an unspoken knowledge destined to remain inexplicable for theoretically evolved beings who nevertheless keep using an ever-limited verbal palette. Santos Silva appears to be another medium chosen to give concrete evidence of this axiom.
The Wire March 18
This album was recorded in Santa Engrácia Church in Lisbon, Portugal’s national pantheon, which means that Susana Santos Silva must have been standing, with her trumpet, tin whistle and bells, not far from the tomb of Amália Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado, who died in 1999. There might be on the surface little in common between Amália’s mournful narratives of the sea and the city poor, and the marmoreal richness and declamatory joy of All The Rivers, but the same stoical intensity, the spirit of saudade, resides in both.
A single, 42 minute solo trumpet needs to be something special to hold attention over repeated hearings. A slight figure with closely cropped hair, Susana is not an overtly dramatic performer. Her stillness is audible in the music, which proceeds very slowly, in short bursts of melodic narrative that are allowed to reverberate through the church’s complex marble interior, creating layers of overtones. It bears little resemblance to the solo work of Bill Dixon or Wadada Leo Smith, and is closer, perhaps, to the work of her near contemporary and fellow European Arve Henriksen.
There are a few episodes when she might be altering the sound of the instrument with a mute, squelching out half-valved notes, tongued effects and near toneless sounds, but for the most part the trumpet plays in its traditional register, high and clean and with a direct attack, allowing the slow acoustic return of the architecture to complete the music in what sound like distant thunder rolls. When she uses bells a few minutes in, it is almost as if the air has been broken into tiny shards by the echo. The penny whistle sounds huge in the space.
No explanation of the title is offered, nor is there any overt programmatic structure, but it’s clear that the music is highly personal. The cover shows what is presumably the infant Santos in the arms of the grandmother to whom the music is dedicated. As it echoes among the tombs and down the generations you have to ask, with Amália, if there is pity in this music, who is it for? Not Santos herself; she seems far too strong for that.
Enola.be Mar 2018
Under robust vaults in caramel-colored complexion and sober stained glass windows that draw in unthinking light beams, Susana Santos Silva records the album All The Rivers . With trumpet, flute and bells she bravely enters the overwhelming arena.
As David Goliath gets on his knees, the Portuguese trumpet player Susana Santos Silva tames the imposing Pantheon in Lisbon. Between heavy walls of marble and cenotaphs of Vasco da Gama and Afonso de Albuquerque, the frail woman spruces out nuts that she lets sink deep into all the crevices of the cruciform plan, minuscule to the farthest gaps and hidden caverns. The edifice of the Renaissance extends and strengthens her measured sound game. Santos Silva insists an inevitable conversation with the Pantheon by supplanting the silence. She gets thrown back echoes of echoes and on top of that she expands layers of sounds that tear up fragments of the BBC series “Planet Earth, Blue Planet” at the first rendezvous. “Lost north-collar looking for other kind”, something like that.
Santos Silva stays in the world of free improvisation. She collaborated with the European Movement Jazz Orchestra, but more often we see her loom up in small ensembles: in duo with the Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg and the Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler. Also with our free spirits like De Beren Gieren she worked together, for the record “The Detour Fish”. With All The Rivers she ventures to her first solo album, recorded in the Panteão Nacional in Lisbon, the church of Santa Engrácia. The natural acoustics in that gigantic space is an excellent plaything to stop sounds. Before the electric amplification became a rift in the musical world, the musician was very dependent on the space in which he played. Gregorian chants, for example, thrive very well in Gothic cathedrals and a string quartet will sound better in an eighteenth-century banqueting room than in a bare hangar. This challenge to make music and improvise in a space that likes to have the last word is an interesting source for new ideas. The undisputed presence of smeared echoes forces Santos Silva to take the dialogue on an equal footing. With patience and respect for space. That results in long slow sentences, intimate babbling and short fetching strokes. The album has a forty minute title track. That the live experience must have assumed ecstatic proportions tells the unexpected applause after the performance. The invisible audience was completely silent.
Santos Silva comes through without blisters or finger gaps. The album is an intense experiment in which the musician and the space are equal partners with attention for time and experiment. All The Rivers is a solo album with the allure of a duet.
Opduvel March 2018
The Portuguese trumpet player Susana Santos Silva is a musician playing in our country with some regularity. She studied in the past at the Codarts University in Rotterdam and recently performed at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam with her quintet Life And Other Transient Storms. The trumpet player was part of the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos for a long time. It can also be found in smaller companies, such as the LAMA Trio (with bass player Gonçalo Almeida and drummer Greg Smith). She made the CD’s Almost Tomorrow (2013) and If Nothing Else (2015) with the Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg and with the Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler T his Love (2016).
All The Rivers, Live At Panteão Nacional is presented as a solo album by Santos Silva. She is also the only musician of flesh and blood that can be heard on the record. Yet there is not really a solo album, because it is a duet between the trumpet player and the Panteão Nacional, a church in Lisbon whose construction started in the seventeenth century but which was only completed in the twentieth century. The monumental building, with its robust acoustics with a lot of reverberation and other obstacles, serves as a counterweight to the trumpet play and therefore fulfills an essential musical function.
Santos Silva plays a forty-one minute improvisation that is not predictable, but which does have a clear idea behind it. It seems as if the Portuguese is investigating all the obstacles and all corners, holes and crevices of the building with her trumpet play. The building reflects that game, Santos Silva returns her own game and reacts to it again. This creates a duet of a free-moving and a static player.
Santos Silva is not an improviser who must have unconventional trumpet or added tools, although she also plays tin whistle and bells on this album. Her trumpet tone is clear, sometimes has a frayed edge, but does not take on real, contrarian shapes. Santos Silva will also feel at home in traditional jazz, yet she is regularly found in more avant-garde company.The trumpet player’s experiment is in the musical setting, improvising together with others, or as here by exploring the possibilities of the building in which and with which it plays.
‘All The Rivers’ is a long piece without climaxes, but it is not built up from parts pasted one after the other. It is really a long improvisation, in which, incidentally, there are short silences that are part of the music.The trumpeter gets the full blown round tones as echo back, while the muted game gets much less response from the church. Santos Silva plays with these possibilities, always changing dynamics and probing the resonance of the building. Occasionally the trumpet player produces a grunting sound or changes to staccato sounds.
However, the mastery prevails and that is also what Santos Silva makes a big impression. Her game is thoughtful and the lines played are often quite short, so that the reflection through the building gets the space to sound through. That building reacts very differently once the musician plays the tin whistle or is busy with calling. Where the full trumpet sound produces a glowing echo, the thin high sound of the flute is reflected with much less conviction. Even if Santos Silva sounds the bells, the echo is less clear.
But the emphasis is of course on the trumpet game. Santos Silva shows her great class by the melodic and dynamic variety that she brings to her playing and by her ability to listen to the resonance of the Panteão Nacional, to use it in her improvisation. The result is a downright impressive and melodious album.
Le Soir MAD Feb 2018
One piece of 42 minutes. One instrument: the trumpet. Plus, it’s true, some jingles bells and trills of tin whistle. The Portuguese musician Susana Santos Silva is accustomed to improvising, with the Swedish bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg, with Slovenian pianist Kaja
Draklser. Here, alone on stage, she magnifies her art of jazz improvisation with the subtle use of acoustic properties of the Panteão Nacional de Lisbon, as Gregorian chant took advantage of the incredible sound of Gothic cathedrals.
It’s recorded live, without overdub, all raw, and it’s beautiful. It’s like a river whose
current carries the musical elements, sometimes light and agile, sometimes soft and tender, sometimes serious and deep. The reverberations of the marbles of the room modify the harmonies, the timbres. A tension settles between the trumpet and the
pantheon. The resolution is poetic and spiritual.
All About Jazz Feb 2018
The young Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva has been steadily rising in the ranks of cutting-edge improvisers and composers. Santos has extensive conservatory training from her native country, as well as in Germany and Holland. She is at home in the colloquial language of traditional jazz and the avant-garde, but her strength is in a sound that is more idiosyncratic and undefinable. Santos plays across a broad scope of formations from The European Movement Jazz Orchestra down to a number of outstanding duo outings; Almost Tomorrow (2013) and If Nothing Else (2015), with Swedish bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg and This Love (2016) with Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler, all on the Clean Feed label. All the Rivers—Live at Panteão Nacional is Santos’ first solo album and it is superb.
All the Rivers consists of a single continuous title track; Santos playing not only the trumpet but the physical structure of the venue as well. The improvised piece was recorded at the National Pantheon / Santa Engrácia’s Church in Lisbon and the echo and natural acoustic properties of the church become a proxy for something comparable to electronic augmentation. But it is Santos alone who directs the sound into the nooks and crannies of Santa Engrácia, modulates and changes the harmonics and toys with the dynamics and timbre of the trumpet creating a full-bodied musical experience.
The movement and concentration of All the Rivers neither builds nor feels episodic. The shifts from long, pleasing lines to more aggressive growling are interwoven with lavish patterns and a graceful fluidity throughout. The piece may be experimental but its assembly is resourceful and easy to appreciate. There have been a number of intriguing trumpet solo albums in recent years, from progressive players such as Peter Evans and Nate Wooley but it is a difficult undertaking, especially when completely improvised. Santos’ All the Rivers is, for her, something of a return to her more innovative side. It’s a beautiful album that should please fans of the avant-garde and open the ears of the more traditional listener.
Free Jazz Blog Feb 2018
This CD is a 42-minute duet between the trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and the Portuguese National Pantheon. Santos Silva is becoming increasingly well-known in free jazz and free improvisation circles, whether through her membership in the group Lama or a host of other projects made in groupings across Europe. For those who have not visited Portugal, the Panteão Nacional may be unfamiliar.
The phrase “obras de Santa Engrácia,” the construction of Santa Engrácia, is an expression in Portuguese that denotes a building project that will go on forever. The source of the phrase is Lisbon’s Church of Santa Engrácia, yes, the Panteão Nacional, located in the city’s ancient Alfama district and overlooking the Tagus River. Endless? The church’s state of incompletion was a constant through centuries of change, a symbol of upheaval. Construction of the first church dedicated to Saint Engrácia on the site began in 1568. The present church began in 1681 after previous ones on the site had collapsed. Construction proceeded for thirty years, until the building was abandoned by King Joao V, distracted by far more ambitious construction projects—an aqueduct, palaces, a cathedral, an opera house.
It was finally finished in the 20th century. In 1916, six years after the fall of the Portuguese monarchy and the launch of the First Republic, it was repurposed as a National Pantheon, a tomb for the country’s greatest figures. It was finally completed in 1966, forty years after the fall of the first Republic, four years before the death of the dictator António Salazar and eight years before the Carnation Revolution turned Portugal into a modern democracy (the “obras” and the construction dates come from the Wikipedia entry).
In recent years the profoundly resonant space—high, thick, dense stone walls; an almost circular space; a dome–has become the occasional site for concerts of a highly contemporary sort. The Variable Geometry Orchestra, a large-scale assembly of free improvisers led by Ernesto Rodrigues, has played there, and the guitarist Abdul Môimeme has recorded a fascinating solo concert there, Exosphere on Creative Sources (full disclosure: I wrote the liner note). The appeal of the space is immediate: it offers something like a 20-second time lag, making it an extraordinary medium for sustained pieces and the exploration of sonic decay.
Here, Santos Silva is literally playing the Pantheon with her trumpet, tin whistle and bells. The Pantheon takes her sounds and magnifies them, playing them back to her, extending them. When she plays succeeding tones a semitone apart, the echoes explode around her. When she (apparently) aims her trumpet in a different direction—sound (overtones), amplitude—change markedly. It would be remarkable if Santos Silva merely explored the sound of the space, its shifting echoes and durations, but she does far more. She creates a profound, subtly evolving work that engages the possibilities of the trumpet and the building as if they were paired, like the two resonators on a veena.
The music is open, the Pantheon is open, and you are invited to hear it any way you can or wish. Some selective thoughts:
At times Santos Silva will throw out a great burred, brassy blast; in contemporary terms, these are multiphonics; in architectural terms, they’re challenges to the Pantheon’s walls to respond in qualitative kind; in jazz history, these are almost rude noises, or maybe even more “dinosaur in the morning” than the sound of Coleman Hawkins thus described by the critic Whitney Balliett, in one documentary it is presented as the sound of the unrecorded Buddy Bolden. These signs point to the status of this concert as a kind of originary moment, intimately connected with multiple histories;
The Panteão Nacional has been almost exclusively a male residence. The first woman to be interred there was the great Fado singer Amália Rodrigues, in 2001. It is perfectly appropriate that a woman should make such a profound statement as All the Rivers at this site.
While the Panteão Nacional is an imposing, even intimidating space (an elevator ride to the terrace for a view of the Tagus involves squeezing into a confined space cut into one of the incredibly thick walls: the claustrophobia suggests “immurement”—to be entombed in a wall;
The CD jacket offers no images of the Pantheon, no suggestion of the power, the grandeur, the solidity, that distance that grows as you get closer. The cover of All the Rivers could not be more opposite: Santos Silva dedicates the CD to her grandparents; the front cover photograph, uncredited, presents an older woman holding an infant; pink wallpaper with an abstract arabesque suggests floral bouquets; in the photograph there is a statue on a pedestal of a boy in formal dress, perhaps from the eighteenth century, reading a book. These are intimate emblems, a personal history, a history as unlike as possible the history to which the Pantheon speaks; a history of the intimate and familial versus the history of church as state (resonating with Jose Saramago’s Memorial do Convento [in English, Baltasar and Blimunda]).
Santos Silva’s performance in the Pantheon is a rich meditation on the nature of time, its expanse, its mystery and its construction in the moment, the necessary relationship between works and breath. If the Pantheon would seem to enclose time, to celebrate a permanence, Santos Silva opens it in a matter of 42 minutes. The strange history of the “obras,” that construction that ebbs and stops with the passage of centuries and the convulsions of politics, is scaled to the performance, the power of the transitory to find form that is lost to a stone monument.
Are time and timelessness different or the same? Is one the route to the other? Which one? Santos Silva and the Pantheon meet on the path of time’s riddle, a mobius strip. We are left blessed with these long tones, these multiphonics, these reverberant bells, these ceremonies of memory, exploration, freedom and reconciliation.
Dusted Magazine Feb 2018
Album-length solo trumpet statements are still an eccentric strategy in improvised music. Wadada Leo Smith, Ted Daniel, Peter Evans and the late Raphé Malik all have made seminal statements in the format, but it remains a daunting proposition for most players. The inherent limitations of the instrument require the sort of imaginative and resourceful mind that Susana Santos Silva is fortunate to possess. It also helps if a unifying thematic thread can be stitched into the activity, the better to anchor both player and listeners to a common experience. All the Rivers gains such purchase in chosen performance space, the vast and grand interior architecture of the Portuguese National Pantheon in Lisbon.
The immensity of the structure is both a boon and a challenge to Silva’s brass. Vaulted ceilings and crenelated marble columns offer all manner crevices and surfaces for her salvos to carom and ricochet against and across, but the magnitude of the enclosure also requires an even greater degree of projection and breath reserves in order to be properly heard. Extraneous sounds enter the field of audibility on occasion over the course of the forty-two minute recital. Silva opts against demarcations in the recorded program offering instead a single slab of striated and resonating music.
Trumpet tone and presence is almost immediately flattened and distanced in the enormous stone echo chamber, trading precise clarity for a beautiful bleed of timbre that spreads over the ears in shimmering, reverberating waves that decay like falling snowflakes dissolving under the rays of an unfiltered sun. Mental analogues manifest promptly too from aquatic whale song to a solitary alphorn intoning from a remote and frigid alpine peak. The descending and ascending tone clusters also recall of all things the Blade Runner soundtrack, both in its original Vangelis iteration and recent Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch variation.
Bells and a tin whistle serve as complements to Silva’s brass at several junctures and their specific sonorities experience similar alterations in sound with a penumbra of echo softening and expanding their textures and edges. The music is occasionally meditative, but it retains a clarity and incisiveness at direct odds with complacency on the part of both player and audience. Silva’s striated blasts roughly at the halfway mark sound a clarion reminder that she is very much in the moment and far from expending her ideational reserves. The results are in sum an immersive and impressive experience, one that compares confidently with prior solitary entries by others on her instrument. Derek Taylor
Na Mira do Groove Feb 2018
Tocar jazz é muito mais que conectar-se ao instrumento. É preciso perceber o ambiente e dialogar com o público, principalmente em apresentações ao vivo. Em uma performance estonteante no Panteão Nacional, a trompetista portuguesaSusana Santos Silva usa as reverberações desta secular instalação, que fica dentro da belíssima Igreja de Santa Engrácia, em Lisboa. Seu estilo neobarroco favorece a acústica; assim, a extensão dos solos de Susana adquirem reverberação fantasmagórica, como se ela estivesse se comunicando com as muitas almas sepultadas no local – do presidente Teófilo Braga (1843-1924) ao ex-craque Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (1942-2014).
Desde que lançou seu primeiro disco, em 2011, Susana passou a integrar inúmeros projetos, como a Fire! Orchestra, LAMA, além de ter tocado com Carla Bley, Maria Schneider, entre outros. Esta performance solo brilha como um de seus melhores trabalhos porque vemos a instrumentista confrontando as limitações do trompete. Cada sopro carrega uma vitalidade poderosa. Logo, o ouvinte percebe que os diversos fragmentos apresentados se assemelham a expressões do ser humano: uma reação positiva à nostalgia, um breve clamor de desespero, a tranquilidade de tempos brandos. Pela improvisação livre, Susana criou um enredo próprio que representa a jornada diária de cada um. A abrangência de suas notas permite que o ouvinte se identifique e se emocione.