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Reciprocal Uncles

The Whole Thing

Amirani Records AMNR 063

Piano-saxophone duets which mark the final chapter in one relationship and the continuing strengthening of the other are what separate these otherwise admirable discs. Unfortunately The Whole Thing is the last Reciprocal Uncles disc, since Italian pianist Gianni Lenoci died at 56 in September 2019, four months after recording this fluid improvisation with long-time partner soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo. On the other hand Beyond is yet another step beyond synergy by two of Lithuania’s most prominent improviser, pianist Dmitrij Golovanov and soprano saxophonist Jan Maksimowicz, who have been collaborating for 15 years.

The Baltic saxophonist who has also played with Tim Daisy and symphony orchestras and the pianist who has worked with Veronika ChiChi and Tree Stones add sampling and live electronics to the acoustic musings they express during 11, mostly brief or mid-length tracks. The exception is the nearly 11-minute “Birth” which appropriately enough which begins the session. Setting up parameters from the first, the duo’s moderato narrative features echoing piano string plucks and strained trills from the saxophonist soon doubled with ghostly reed cries and electronic drones. As Golovanov’s strategy continues to encompass keyboard clips and digs into more parts of his instrument’s innards, Maksimowicz’s skimpy in and in-out-breaths become even thinner. Eventually reaching a climax in the track’s final minutes, the duo completes its sonic definition by melding propelled saxophone split tones, keyboard patterning and a voltage-charged undercurrents.

During the remainder of the disc, the two judiciously array programmed add-ons among their improvisations, with narratives that encompass staccato reed bites and rolling keyboard pressure to confirm naturalism. These sequences attain a crescendo at the mid-point with “Battle”, a track that less combative than the title would indicate. Instead a studied Free Jazz motif is established with Maksimowicz’s jagged blowing setting up a contrapuntal challenge to Golovanov’s metronomic and dynamically paced key mashing. Eventually the two meet to propel a dispassionate conclusion. Not anti-climatic, but more an extended coda, the remaining five tracks bring the programming back to a limited extent, but also often default to bouncing timbral distribution. Displaying string pinks and soundboard rumbles as well as echoing, mellow reed trills, dreamy calm as well as dissonant creativity is perfectly balanced by the final improvisation.

Fundamentally many of the extended techniques used by the Lithuanians also find their way into the one extended narrative expressed by the Italian Reciprocal Uncles, without the use of electronics. Although the two had been playing in duo formation during the previous decade, both had extensive other experience, Monopoli-born Lenoci has recorded with Joëlle Léandre and Markus Stockhausen among others and Pavia-native Mimmo has a touring relationship with Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda.

At the same time, the whole thing about The Whole Thing is that both participants properly devote themselves to creating textures that that blend or evolve in double counterpoint so that detached solos are at a premium. Harmonizing reed peeps and sweeping keyboard cascades at the top, the interchange soon becomes denser, swifter, more diffuse and dynamic with keyboard pumps nearly attaining player piano speeds and angular reed spits moving to shriller pitches. The first flow interruption comes about one-quarter into the track as the pianist’s almost never-ending patterning is interrupted by a multiphonic buzz from the saxophonist. As pedal power thickens Lenoci’s chording, Mimmo’s adenoidal pitches, tongue slaps and nasal reed pops maintain a parallel narrative. Just as the reed characteristics are exhibited without strain, so at the two-thirds point Lenoci creates a singular definition of his skills. Patterning upwards, tightly spaced notes are mobilized into colorful glissandi and key slides in the piano’s highest register, decorating the narrative with color as well as cleverness. Shifting dual communication into elevated momentum as Lenoci’s tickles the soundboard’s highest pitches and Mimmo creates his brightest reed peeps, the two pull the line out further and further without breaking connection until speed and shrillness slow down to near stasis for a finale with spaced string strums as a completing coda.

Sadly the transcendent connection exhibited on The Whole Thing can be never be repeated. However Mimmo continues to concertize with other innovative players. So do Maksimowicz and Golovanov. Very likely all three will continue to meet any musical challenge put before them. In short, the title of the final track on Beyond should be prescient: “To Be Continued”.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Whole: 1. The Whole Thing

Personnel: Whole: Gianni Mimmo (soprano saxophone) and Gianni Lenoci (piano)

Track Listing: Beyond: 1. Birth 2. Noise 3. Reflection 4. Confusion 5. Preparation 6. Battle 7. Understanding 8. Beyond 9. Trick 10. Contemplation 11. To Be Continued

Personnel: Beyond: Jan Maksimowicz (soprano saxophone, sampling and live electronics) and Dmitrij Golovanov (piano, sampling and live electronics)