Portuguese trumpeter Sei Miguel’s Esfingico – Suite For A Jazz Combo might initially suggest a hybrid classical-jazz score, but it’s largely entrenched within avant-gardist type fare.  Nonetheless, it’s an interesting endeavor, as the quintet morphs free-form minimalism with progressive jazz improvisation atop ever-so-subtle percussion grooves.

With his pocket trumpet and music score direction, Miguel casts an unusual set of metrics here, abetted by Rafael Toral’s modulated resonance feedback circuit implementations.  Essentially, the music is underscored by evasive sub-themes and trickling EFX noises, nicely contrasted by alto trombonist Fala Mariam’s occasional injection of bluesy choruses.  However, Miguel steers the musicians through stark movements that seemingly emanate from a rather quiet space and an odd configuration that intimates a state of apprehension.

Miguel and Toral offer probing contrasts to the man vs. machine paradigm, while Cesar Burago intersperses poignant world-groove beats, spanning metronome-like patterns and undulating flows.  Not much gets out of hand, as the performers render the intensity level at a modulating pace.  At times, Miguel’s vision and mode of execution imparts a bottom-feeding type visual, as though the music is a soundtrack for an oceanic nature flick. But on the final piece “IV.V.VI – Estas As Palavras,” they pick up the momentum via buoyant rhythms, streaming electronics and fluttering horns.

Like it or not, Miguel is most assuredly on to something here, which is a notion that parallels the promotional notes, stating his John Cage influences.  Indeed, the subversive flair, asymmetrical currents and darkly woven fabrics of sound, intrinsically taunt the mind’s eye.

Glenn Astarita