Levin + Pinheiro + Faustino

The dictionary tells us that a rhizome is an elongated underground plant stem that produces offshoots and extended roots separate, and not resulting directly, from the characteristics of the actual plant. In the 1980s, French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari borrowed the word to describe historical and cultural networks of information and communication which may derive from multiple, non-hierarchical sources of influence or attraction with no predetermined organization or unifying coherency. In The Mechanic Unconscious, Guattari explained, “Any point whatsoever on the rhizome will be able to be connected to any other point…will not be formalized on the basis of a logical or mathematical metalanguage…will be able to allow semiotic chains of all kinds to connect [in addition to linguistic]…it will imply the implementation of various collective assemblages of enunciation.” Looked at from another perspective, we may recognize this as musical improvisation in its seldom encountered state of ultimate freedom – not a style, but an escape from conventional form and meaning.  
Improvisation has come to represent a number of types of spontaneous activity, some based upon a variational approach to given material or structure, a reconsideration of previous modes of expression, or the development of an alternative syntax within a specific musical language – where the “roots” (that is, the decision-making) of the transformational process derive from memory, whether experiential or intellectual. But “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” as the White Queen told Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The ability to project and extend a musical idea into an environment of seemingly unrelated activity requires an awareness of possibility, a logic of continuity as discovery. This is the foundation from which this trio seeks its identity.  
Coming from various backgrounds and a remarkably broad range of stylistic experiences, including dozens of recordings with the cutting-edge of musicians in America and Europe, Daniel Levin, Rodrigo Pinheiro, and Hernani Faustino joined together here for the first time as a trio (although the pianist and bassist have a longtime successful musical partnership) to perform as an experiment in synchronicity, without advance preparation or stylistic consensus. Their compatibility is based upon the acceptance of form as an intuitive, immediate shaping of details, where memory becomes individual narrative, each instrument an equal voice, a distinct thread in the ensemble fabric. The adventure confronts them to provide questions rather than answers. “You are lost the instant you know what the result will be,” according to cubist painter Juan Gris.  
To this end, their music reflects a sensitivity of intent; group textures reveal a fluid, intimate, transparency in counterpoint; tension emerges from attention to the uniqueness of the moment, and is resolved in equally nuanced, unpredictable ways – an impulse of spontaneous contemplation, in all of its oxymoronic complexity. The challenge is to sustain the moment without losing contact with what poet George Oppen called “the lyric valuables” – the urgency of expression. In so doing, though the growth of the music takes place beneath the surface, in the subtle shifts of dynamics, dissonance, and juxtaposition, intensity remains constant.  
Another poet, Paul Valery, believed “A bad poem is one that vanishes into meaning.” Music, too, may disappear into its own formal necessity. This trio’s solution is not an illustration or explanation, but a revelation.  

--Art Lange, Chicago, February 2023


Daniel Levin: cello
Rodrigo Pinheiro: piano
Hernâni Faustino: double bass


All music by Daniel Levin, Rodrigo Pinheiro and Hernâni Faustino
Cover illustration and graphic design by Madalena Matoso
Liner notes by Art Lange
Recorded by Rodrigo Pinheiro at Timbuktu Studio, Lisboa on the 5th of October 2022
Mixed and mastered by Rodrigo Pinheiro
Produced by Hernâni Faustino, Daniel Levin and Rodrigo Pinheiro
Executive Production by Phonogram Unit

Release date
July 8, 2023
Phonogram Unit - PU18DI
Disc format
Digital download


Rhizome documents the first-ever, free improvised album of American cellist Daniel Levin with Portuguese pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro and double bass player Hernâni Faustino (two-thirds of the legendary RED Trio and collaborating in Clocks and Clouds and in José Lencastre Nau Quartet), recorded at Timbuktu Studio in Lisbon in October 2022. Art critic Art Lange invites us to employ the botanical term rhizome within the philosophical framework of French thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari and to describe historical and cultural networks of information and communication that may derive from multiple, non-hierarchical sources of influence or attraction with no predetermined organization or unifying coherency.

And, indeed, it is tempting to think about this intimate, chamber album, recorded after a live trio performance, in such elaborate philosophical terms. But, first and foremost is about deep listening of experienced, idiosyncratic improvisers, playing with emphatic yet unpredictable dynamics and with total freedom of the music making that is based upon the acceptance of form as an intuitive, immediate shaping of details. «Rhizome», by the way, is also the title of a piece in the duo album of Levin and violist Mat Maneri, The Transcendent Function (Clean Feed, 2015). This trio takes its time while exploring contrasting aspects of subtle, lyrical textures, including microtonality, dissonance, juxtaposition and counterpoint, using silence and space as essential elements in the music. And to borrow again from Guattari, it does so not by formalizing its interplay «on the basis of a logical or mathematical metalanguage». Its interplay is democratic, patient and calm, organic and almost ethereal, economic yet poetic, suggesting its own logic of continuity as discovery, and its own syntax and language. And Lange adds, this adventure confronts this trio to provide questions rather than answers, and he quotes Spanish cubist painter Juan Gris: «You are lost the instant you know what the result will be».

More nervous is “Mindpath”, with the instruments in a flutter; when everything seems to calm down, the connections that are established between the three musicians stand out more clearly, always in a mutual listening mode, in a path, I would say, telepathic (which is perhaps alluded to in the title of the piece). Some of the album's best moments are well kept in the dramatism, as poignant as it is enigmatic, of "Chol" (theme that Levin proposed that the trio record), which somehow finds continuity in the more plain contours of "Terrarium", with the decanted notes of the piano, the creaking of the woods reminding us of the proposal's organicity, the use of the arch adding gravity; converging on a thunderous silence. “Mercúrio”, the most extensive piece on the album, lasting more than 17 minutes, goes through different stages, more agitated or more abstract in a six-hand knitting process; at a certain moment, Levin's cello seems to acquire some protagonism, which soon dissipates into a web of relationships.

“Rhizome” is a beautiful, demanding and challenging album, which calls for successive auditions to be fully enjoyed.

The entirety of this beautiful CD is covered in a veil of melancholy emanating from Rodrigo Pinheiro’s pianism, which extends to even the most vibrant interplay. I can feel it as I stare out the window at the tree’s green leaves, sideways illuminated by a rare setting sun during this climatically awful Italian summer. That subtle phrasing, either pensively dissonant or completely open to nearly flawless harmonic solutions, acts as a glue of sorts for the equal creative skill of the string players. In the midst of seriously atonal signals and schismatic outbursts, Daniel Levin and his cello deliver tidbits of linear knowledge while remaining properly disinterested in jazz-tinged clichés. Actually, avoiding anything predictable is what he sets out to do, and that’s exactly what happens. Hernâni Faustino’s equally gorgeous double bass lays the foundation for a deft, responsive counterpoint, with the same weight distribution for plucking, droning, and wise exploitation of upper partials. The musicians’ ability to seize the right moment to resonate together after sensibly waiting for each other is matched by often muted colors, eyes turned to an awareness of the present, and ears constantly on the lookout for the sign of change. This music, this exquisite sound, projects a lasting impression on the mind.