November 1, 2018
Next Planet on the Way
Setola di Maiale SM 3480
In Transverse Time
Victo cd 131
Endowing a stand-alone reed quartet with the full spectrum of orchestral textures is the aim of both these outstanding veteran aggregations. That this goal is mostly attained is only one appeal of these sessions; the other is to what divergent uses the resulting arrangements are put. Next Planet on the Way’s 16 tracks, for instance, are dedicated to raucous, rhythmic fun without lapsing into inanity. Meanwhile the 10 compositions on In Transverse Time shore up the musical sophistication and adaptability of Rova, with individual points of view accounted for throughout.
Led by tenor/baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist Carlo Actis Dato, known for his time in the Italian Instabile Orchestra, Atipico 4 is an Italian hybrid: half-mature free improv and half-village banda, with many of the compositions coming across as ruptured nursery rhymes where simplicity is undercurrent by cultivated extended techniques.
Although often or not it’s Actis Dato’s baritone saxophone snorts which underline or contrapuntally challenge the others more horizontal playing, after many years as Atipico the others give as good as they get. For instance, throbbing bagpipe swells from Flavio Giacchero, who also plays bass clarinet and soprano saxophone; frame “Belfagor”, with the mid-section including vocal murmurs and reed acrobatics evolving over a low-pitched ostinato. On “Petra” as well it’s the warm woody clarinet exposition played by either Beppe Di Filippo, who has been part of Atipico for many years and also plays alto and soprano saxophones here, or Stefano Buffa, who also plays tenor saxophone, which sets up a slinky, near-Kasbah-like melody that evolves into a showdown among thin twitters and thick toots from all concerned. Buffa’s harsh tenor tone is put to use on the concluding “Hotarù”, where following a tutti exposition, the tenor saxophone; story-telling variations are cannily mimicked by a bass clarinetist with a near-singing line. A foghorn-like wallow from the baritone saxophonist turns into mercurial pseudo-Blues on “Costa Sud” with backing bagpipe reverberations and encouraging vocal cries making Actis Dato’s triple-tongued flutters stand out even more.
Throughout, the tracks vary from showcases for slippery twitters to ones engulfed with blustery solemnity. Because of that, the harmonized horn passages prevent sequences from becoming too showy or too spiky. At the same time the appreciative vocalized yells and hearty double-stopping tongue slaps ensure that the same spirit of cheery release is present and communicated with un-self-consciousness. If Next Planet on the Way has a drawback it’s that there are too many short tracks among the 16. A few lengthier tunes would have allowed the quartet to stretch out more and also see how far good musical times could be stretched.
Length isn’t a problem on In Transverse Time since a good portion of the disc is taken up by alto and sopranino saxophonist Steve Adams’s seven part “The Dark Forest Suite” and tenor saxophonist Larry Och's 24¼-minute “Hidden in Ochre”. First constituted more than 40 years ago, Ochs, Steve Adams, plus soprano saxophone, Bruce Ackley and baritone saxophonist Jon Raskin can move as one at any speed, and at the same time manipulates polyphony in such a way that individual voices are always heard. On “The Dark Forest Suite” for instance the quartet moves through mid-range harmonies and/or a blended unison chronology with flattement and glottal punctuation animated with a drawling baritone narrative and color provided by the higher pitched reeds. Climax occurs as “The Dark Forest Suite Song 3” transforms into “The Dark Forest Suite Song 4” as a formalized amble is broken into proportionate parts with the alto saxophone taking on a pre-modern Pete Brown like swagger as sharp shudders and variations are first layered and subsequently displayed in the form of baritone saxophone slurps and four-part harmonies with the brief Coda undulating mellow connections.
Raskin’s “A Leap of Faith in Transverse Time” seesaws from baritone saxophonist’s R&B-like vamp to peeps and vibrations from the others, adding up to an undulating, multi-decorated theme whose crescendos include. pattern repetition, Written to surround very physical dancers’ moves “Hidden in Ochre” is initially upfront in its R&B-like underpinnings via tenor and baritone saxophone swinging vamps, soon evolving so that a four-horn rectangular is created as each saxophonist contributes split tones, strained glossolalia, pressurized trills and multiphonic echoes Expressing the sheer physicality of playing through the use of further key percussion, slap tonguing, whines and whistles, individuals’ comment on one another’s theme augmentations at the same time as slick and splayed textures unite the narrative. Three-quarters of the way through rhythmic sophistication is mated with a multi-directions sequence that most noticeably contrasts pinched soprano snarls and low-pitched tenor tongue slaps. Variations follow boisterous theme variations during the track’s final three minute with individual showcases fading to comfortable calmness.
Appreciating the output of reed quartets should be no more demanding than listening to any other four instruments playing together. As expressed here, the implicit challenges are mated with elation and discovery.
Track Listing: Planet: 1. Dietro la Siepe 2. Belfagor 3. Printemps à Sète 4. Mare Ignoto 5. Antigua 6. Petra 7. Tanghetto 8. Quadri 9. Afa 10. Costa Sud 11. Selva Oscura 12. Batbox 13. KaprivI 14. Snow in Koyasan 15. Take Six 16. Hotarù
Personnel: Planet: Beppe Di Filippo (alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet); Carlo Actis Dato (tenor and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet); Stefano Buffa (clarinet, tenor saxophone) and Flavio Giacchero (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, bagpipes)
Track Listing: Transverse: 1. Oxygen 2. The Dark Forest Suite Introduction 3. The Dark Forest Suite Song 1 4. The Dark Forest Suite Song 2 5. The Dark Forest Suite Song 3 6. The Dark Forest Suite Song 4 7. Coda 8. A Leap of Faith in Transverse Time 9. The Time Being 10. Hidden in Ochre
Personnel: Transverse: Bruce Ackley (soprano saxophone); Steve Adams (alto and sopranino saxophones); Larry Ochs (tenor saxophone) and Jon Raskin (baritone saxophone)