Kairos, the debut full length from Berklee grad Mateus Starling, is a compelling and innovative artistic achievement for the young guitarist and his band of remarkable musicians. Starling is joined for the first 6 tracks of the album by Chris Cabrera on bass, drummer Pablo Eluchans, and tenor sax player Jesse Scheinin, and finishes off the last two songs backed by bassist Caio Slonzon and drummer Edu Nali. Although the guitarist/composer is the star throughout the album, his band deserves a large amount of credit for adding depth and solidarity to Starling’s ideas. All the material on Kairos was recorded as a live ensemble, for reasons which Starling himself explains best. “My expectation was to capture the interaction of the band on the solos and to have that kind of energy that we hear on most of the old jazz projects,” he says. As a result, Kairos is full of energy and life, and documents a band that knows how to listen to and answer each other while remaining locked into tight grooves.
The album’s first track, “Exodus,” kicks off with a strong bass line and impressively performed tenor sax solo and melody, and moves into an eerie guitar solo that feels more at home in the genre of experimental rock rather than straight ahead jazz. It’s followed by “Good Moments,” which features Hendrix-style effects put to good use on powerful jazz-rock riffs and an edgy melody. “Jerico,” one of the jazzier tracks, starts off with some quick drum rolls and dives into a racing melody. The song slows into a solo section, including a bass solo by Cabrera that builds up to the final chorus. The album keeps up the quick pulse with “Brazilian Funk,” a tune that delivers exactly what its title promises. The mood changes directions a few tracks later with the beautiful “Pai,” a jazz ballad that begins and ends with a lullaby-like guitar line, supported by smooth tenor sax throughout the piece. The final two cuts, although more stripped-down, highlight Starling’s exquisite tone and note choice. The album’s closer, “Ark,” really stands out as a haunting, slow tempo dirge, and finishes what can only be described as a musical journey with gentle ease.
Starling’s strengths (and there are many) seem to lie within his ability to write jazz melodies that incorporate his love of the rock guitarists that influenced his playing at a young age, as well as the Brazilian music he was surrounded with growing up in Rio de Janeiro. Just as noteworthy as the melodies, however, are Starling’s solos, played to perfection in each turn he takes. Kairos should and undoubtedly will succeed in establishing Mateus Starling as a young and important force in the world of free jazz and Brazilian rock.
Erin Thomas currently studies at Berklee.