Curran/Schiaffini/C. Neto/Armaroli

From The Alvin Curran Fakebook
Dodicilune Dischi Ed 886

By Ken Waxman

Turning the use of a “fakebook” on its head, instead of improvising on famous standards’ lead sheets, Rome-based American composer Alvin Curran and his Italian associates use 13 of Curran’s composition as the basis for creativity. Known for his pioneering electro-acoustic soundscapes for Musica Elettronica Viva, Curran, plus trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini, multi-reedist Alipio C Neto, vibist/percussionist Sergio Armaroli, bassist Marcello Testa and drummer Nicola Stranieri create two-CDs of music that sounds both aleatory and arranged.

Although the brief final tracks on CD2 could be performed by a lounge combo, the disc’s crucial concepts occur when the first CD foregrounds the composer’s talents on computer (“Max’d Out”) and piano (“Why is this Night Different from all other nights”). Electronic oscillations and circular-breathed saxophone sluices on “Max’d Out” contrast with plunger trombone vibrations and bell-shaking tones until climaxing as a balanced narrative. On the second tune, wolf-whistle-like reed lines and theatrical keyboard cadenzas are not only expanded with soothing trombone burrs and delicate vibes’ resonation but also dissembled with granular synthesis that dissects pre-recorded voices into backwards moving mumble and mysterious textures.

These machine-instrument explorations plus unique challenges are resolved on the over 33-minute “The Answer is”. With vibraphone pings maintaining the melody, computer crackles, tailgate trombone and gibberish vocal mutations move aside as polyphonic cacophony or perfectly performed Cool jazz are tried on for size then regularized into a tonally fluctuating finale. Technical mastery and dazzling sonic surprise are never faked on this session.

For The Whole Note May 2018