Carlo Actis Dato, bass clarinetist and baritone saxophonist, and Baldo Martinez, double bassist, create energetic avant jazz duets on this boisterous, inventive recording. Both artists have a background in ethnic music as well as jazz, which lends the music a European folk flavor in places. There's also a humorous component to their interaction, but they never allow jocularity to get in the way of substantive music making.
"Sospeita" displays a plethora of playing styles. Martinez spends the first part of the tune using his bass primarily as a percussion instrument, keeping time with both noise and pitch-based elements. Dato makes squeaks and playful filigrees on the bass clarinet. When Martinez takes a solo turn, he creates an intense environment filled with pointed glissandi, a plaintive arco solo, and double stops galore. On "Ashanti", Dato creates a raucous tone on his baritone sax, evoking blues hollering and burlesque pit bands. Meanwhile, Martinez creates imaginative walking lines -- sliding up and down the neck one moment, plucking a rollicking rhythmic groove the next. Skronk sections, featuring much caterwauling from Dato, are interspersed with a dancing tune, which the duo take up with gusto. Martinez's subsequent solo is very much in this buoyant, gestural vein, nicely telegraphing a return home to the composition's attractive head arrangement, over which Dato layers a breathless cadenza.
"Compay Segundo"'s introduction features a mournful minor key melody from Dato's bass clarinet and sepulchral drones from Martinez. The piece's main body is a stark contrast, a sinuous belly dance that features dirty-toned soloing from Dato and an undulating walking line from Martinez. "Luna Park" seems to evoke the bubbly vivacity of a street fair, and "A Boca da ria" has a snappy tune as well, with incisive performances of tricky unison rhythms and several more independent solo flights of fancy. Some of Martinez's most impressive playing comes in his solo turn in "Vejo Elmer"; supported by his own bass drones, he weaves contrapuntal lines that explore the double bass's entire compass, creating passionate melodies that, indeed, seem borrowed from some imaginary folk tradition. Dato adds a slinky modal melody atop it, outlining the piquant interval of a tritone, pushing the duet further toward unusual, but eminently satisfying, musical terrain.
Dato and Martinez demonstrate that you don't need a large ensemble, a big PA, or even a drummer to make inventive, rhythmically charged music with startling immediacy. Folkloro Imaginario is an engaging, entertaining, enlivening listening experience.