March 28, 2019
Chant Records CR 1808X0
Leo Records CD LR 832
One of the foot soldiers of Free Music, Swiss-Italian cornetist, trumpeter and flugelhornist Guy Bettini is a veteran improviser whose long-lasting participation in exploratory sounds helps propel the music forward. Comparable but not identical, these CDs show off the Berlin-based brass player in two quartet settings. A regularly constituted ensemble, XOL includes two Italians: bassist Luca Pissavini and percussionist Francesco Miccolis plus Finnish soprano saxophonist Harri Sjöström, and has toured with Peter Brötzmann as well as on its own. More ad-hoc and even more international, the band on Exodos is filled out by Italian alto saxophonist/clarinetist Fabio Martini; Swiss bassist Luca Sisera, and Luzern-based American drummer Gerry Hemingway.
Over time Bettini and Sjöström have worked out a one-two punch of intersecting smears and pitches, either as projected explosions or as paced whispers. Often plunger cries from the brass player and measured peeps from the saxophonist set up expositions, succinctly backed by paced string patterns and wood-and-rim percussion clatters. Sometimes the narratives bring forth other permutations, as when nasal scoops from the trumpeter are harmonized with Arco bass lines or mid-range saxophone variations harden to take on bouncy drum rebounds. Additionally Pissavini often ups the emotional quotient with sul tasto sweeps that reflect back on the horn harmonies. This mixture of broken-octave construction harmonized with muted trumpet and yelping reeds, resting on top of a buzzing double bass continuum helps personalize XOL’s sound architecture throughout and all the way to the final “Dewdrop on the Grass”.
However finer instance of the quartet set up include “And the Entire”, a further Pissavini showcase, as Miccolis’ cowbells clap and the conjoined horn vibrations first deconstruct then paste the melody together again. Bettini gets his way on “To Receive the Image”, when his coquettish trumpet slurs turn to heraldic upward spurts to fend off seductive tongue stops from Sjöström. The ending knits multphonics from both into a chromatic blend.
With Hemingway’s prototypical American drive hardening the exposition and Sisreo slapping and walking his strings, both horn players on the other CD respond with additional bite. At the same time Martini’s often acerbic tone calls for different responses from Bettini then when facing Sjöström’s more measured structures. For instance tongue variations, dampened notes and whines flow from his horn on “Parados”, the better to challenge the alto saxophonists own whines and jagged tongue flutters. Emotional open-horn capillary undulations and half-valve efforts are prominent on “Epeisodia 1” to meet Martini’s bent-note smears and altissimo whistles as the drummer’s hip-hop pulse propels the backdrop. A fortissimo blast leading to mouthpiece French kisses and time-splintering growls characterizes “Stasimon B” to the extent that a concluding trumpet obbligato defines the tune more than slippery reed vibrations or affiliated drum beats. More distinctly Sisera’s shaking introduction to “Epeisodia” set the scene. Because of its slap-bass suggestions, a further blend of Hemingway’s rolls and pats, Martini’s swirling clarinet puffs and Bettini’s clear brass shouts the result end up touching on Dixieland’s contrapuntal freedom. As quickly though, the drummer’s cymbal shimmies moves the piece into a gentling 21st Century conclusion.
Thoroughly comfortable with exploratory improvisation that takes into account Jazz’s background, Bettini and the six other players here have created striking and self-assured CDs. That all aren’t better known is an unfortunate situation, but one that could be remedied with more exposure to albums like these.
Track Listing: Exodos: 1. Prologos 2. Parados 3. Epeisodia 1 4. Stasimon A 5, Epeisodia 2 6. Stasimon B 7. Epeisodia 8. Exodos
Personnel: Exodus: Guy Bettini (cornet, trumpet and flugelhorn); Fabio Martini (clarinets and alto saxophone); Luca Sisera (bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums and voice)
Track Listing: Plays: 1. till Water Has No Mind 2. To Receive the Image 3. Of the Migrating Geese 4.The Whole Moon 5. And the Entire Sky 6. Are Reflected in One 7. Dewdrop on the Grass
Personnel: Plays: Guy Bettini (cornet, trumpet and flugelhorn); Harri Sjöström (soprano saxophone); Luca Pissavini (bass) and Francesco Miccolis (drums and percussion)