Art Speaks by Itself | Review on “Collectives” by Erivan GD

By: Estefania Romero

The visual art work in this article is taken from Collectives.

[Please remember that my perspective as a jazz critic is not to have the absolute truth, but to offer a point of view to talk about what we love the most: music!].

Collectives is an opus that relies on three audiovisual albums: Blue Collective, Collectif Rouge, and Coletivo Amarelo. It was launched by Erivan GD, Brazilian composer and jazz player that I met during his collaboration with JAM Ensamble Sonoro, in Mexico, where he showed a clean a nice performance as a musician.

Now, Collectives has led me to observe Erivan as composer and as the director of his own project:

A priori, it is evident that the titles for each album are written in three different languages, immediately signaling a statement: inclusion, collaboration and the sincere welcoming to the “uncomfortable” otherness.



Without having any other context but what I just mentioned, and before reading any actual statement from the author, I undertook the task to listen to the complete series. As plenty days of writing about it ocurred, I found myself developing thoughts on each record, piece, improvisation, and melodic line, at the end I got lots of fragmented ideas, each one contradicting the other… then I asked myself: Why?

Eventually, I couldn’t stand my curiosity anymore and I read the brief for this project: The author tells he created six individual themes (inspired on the thoughts he had after working on programs for deaf kids), which he later gave to different musicians and sound designers and deaf visual artists, so that these could develop their own ideas, as an exercise. Erivan explains in his YouTube channel that Collectives “is the result of the artist’s intention to create a participatory music, bringing people together, open to different visions, voices, perspectives”.

The question is: does the artist accomplish his objective? My thoughts around this are that Erivan accomplishes his intention indeed, but only when he is working with his collaborators, encouraging them to develop a creative work. However, Collectives shouldn’t be considered as a finished art piece.

First of all, when an art piece is created collectively, as could be a movie, a musical, or a theater play, it is a big challenge to build the main statement as an auteur, who has the responsibility to articulate diverse metaphors into a unique circular idea that evokes a unique universe. For example, in Animals, by Pink Floyd, the message is clear: we live in a society of “animals”, of corrupted feral people, and the intrinsic message in each one of its pieces is congruent with the album’s message as a whole.



In general, planned-ahead discourses (compositions) are usually consistent because; in the most professional scenario, they are capable to establish a vision of the message that its meant to be shared; whereas, as jazz lovers, we know the genre is a lot about experimenting through improvisation just to enjoy how far the artist could go, which isn’t necessarily always a good option if it lacks a sense of direction, considering that this may imply to either lose the connection among the musicians, and/or the connection of the performers with their audience. If fact, we should notice that the long term surviving jazz pieces are also the ones that have had great directors in their ensembles: Duke Ellington or Dizzy Gillespie, to acknowledge a few.

In Collective,the ideas Erivan proposes as a composer are catchy, melodic, even sensual and appealing, fact which is not a common thing in the jazz world nowadays, but it’s an indicator of talent. The guest musicians have some moments of communion, when they get to accomplish concrete concepts with solid artistic value and profound narratives. In this direction, Coletivo Amarelo seems to be the album that communicates more through music:

In “Abcloo B.”, a memorable piece from this album, there is literal poetry behind a layer of modern jazz. It gives the sensation to be in a closed space, where ideas hit you. It’s the allegory of chaos in an internal conversation. The final resolution is a solo moving over everything else, like when the mind storm begins to find a way. We don’t know what “Abcloo B.” means, and we don’t really need to.

“Saudades”, also from Coletivo Amarelo, is the one I consider to be the main art proposal here. It brings a sort of ballad renaissance, taken into a sensual slow hip hop rhythm (as a matter fact, in many parts of this album we find a strong feeling of our current times thanks to its hip hop vibes), with its spaces filled on jazz harmonies.  

Nevertheless, when we analyze the complete Collectives collection, we can tell that even though there is a kind, human message, aligned with the jazz spirit of freedom and inclusion, there’s also a lack of an intrinsic discourse as an unique universe: sometimes we find pieces in which the performers allow themselves to ramble on and on, cutting out connection with the outside world or even within the ensemble itself, focusing solely on the internal pleasure that a musician is able to experiment when encountering with new sounds, thus highlighting that this is just an exercise rather than a consolidated work. A good example for this is “Pink tide power”, from Blue Collective, a melody with certain mysticism (this one got stuck in my head and it keeps showing up, which is fun), that all the sudden changes into a somewhat psychedelic rock spirit, breaking down into lots of non-articulated ideas and empty moments.



Regarding Collective Rouge, is important to be heard with headphones, because the aesthetics of this record shine through its interwoven soundscapes. It is nice to forget for a moment that we live in a world where dynamic range compression is the rule, to be able to appreciate the sound details of the instruments. Here the ensemble got some cool findings, like a synthesized sound playing in parallel with a long bass line doing just the same, hence exploring a new texture. However, the complete narrative here is confusing because it has an unclear purpose.

Also, it seems dangerous that an art piece should only hold itself by its given name or by the explaining done by the author, because art must be able to speak by itself. 

Furthermore, if we observe the visual executions from the deaf kids and teenagers that Erivan invited, it can be also understood that the musicians responded more or less to the chaos they perceived in the drawings. It’s nice to see that people are finding a way to bring themselves out through art since their childhood days. This opens up a great opportunity for the kids to progressively learn deeper about the principles of art, team work, and the importance of direction.



Anyway… let’s remember that is the author who decides the final product. Now, having a work like Collective, planned as composition and improvisation wherever it goes, makes me also wonder: When someone, as a director, gives too much “freedom”, without guiding his crew into a purpose, or without trying to find a message as a “collective”, aren’t we losing the possibility to make an actual statement? Even more: what is the meaning of freedom when a musician takes a true commitment with the work of an author?

In life itself, as in arts, freedom doesn’t exist by itself, but it calls for responsibilities and sense of order; if it does not, we would then be in front of a social space filled with complete mayhem, where anyone could be naked in the streets, or use any words they want without logic structure and/or in any context, implying that we wouldn’t ever listen to one another because no one would be using an structured idea. In fact, this type of chaos is similar to the one we are living in on this generation, where the democratization of art and communications has allowed anyone to comment on anything, in any possible way, but that doesn’t mean that they’re sharing a thesis to survive over time. That also happens with art works!



Now, how can we become responsible for our freedom? Knowing the basic concepts of the art we are going to participate on, and determining clear objectives, whether coming from a single director, or as a group; these objectives may be small, like a song (don’t take me wrong, songs can be great by themselves and memorable forever, like the songs chosen for Thriller by Michael Jackson, among 800 other, through a long process of decision making by Quincy Jones and Jackson), or like the feat to develop three albums under one name, which can only work as a complete universe, where every piece should make sense to it all.

Erivan knows what he wants as a composer; he is also a quite sensitive musician with the ability to show what he feels through the control over his technical habilities. A remarkable example is “Celui qui aime les chevaux”, in Collectif Rouge, a lullaby played with the bass, which is “odd”, considering that in the Occidental collective imaginary, the “sweetest” songs seem to “belong” to instruments with a specific musical timbre, like the piano, harp, or violin. Instead, “Celui qui aime les chevaux” is a beautiful metaphor between the musical discourse and the title, meaning “The one who loves horses”, those powerful, rough and beautiful creatures, just as the bass sounds developing a love letter through melody. In this one, the music is sustained by itself, even without the title, and that’s the real magic of music!

Another treasure is “Por onde for”, which translates for “Wherever You Go”. The sound narrative expresses the message without difficulty, through another bass solo. Coincidence? Or is it that the author, who is also the bass player, has a very clear idea of what he wants to reach with this mini works? As I mentioned in the past (while reviewing one of my heroes, Paquito D’Rivera): a great musician is not necessarily a great composer, or a great director, and that’s fine, we have a long life to keep learning who we are as artists.

Recalling what’s amazing in Coletivo Amarelo: in this one we can hear a connection of different eras. Here we hear a young composer who has a natural voice,  an artist of his time who knows the importance of navigating the past, and broadens his perspectives taking elements from popular music; maybe these characteristics arose from the collective work, and that’s a good symptom of a person who is meant to direct projects. As a matter fact, most of the pieces in Coletivo Amarelo make me consider it one of my favorites in my personal archive of current records.

In conclusion, Collectives is a great exposition that works in some parts; thus, it can only be analyzed as such.

Finally, I’ll insist in the fact that Collectives promotes “music beyond sound, inclusion and diversity”, and the world will always be in need of people proposing and leading this kind of endeavors.


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Quincy Jones. [Muso Al] (2022, March 25). Quincy Jones On Producing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” [Video]. Youtube.