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Dino Betti Van Der Noot
The Humming Cloud
Sam Productions SAM 9008
Dino Betti Van Der Noot
God Save the Earth
Sam Productions SAM 9026
Dino Betti Van Der Noot
September’s New Moon
Sam Productions SAM 9036
Perhaps it’s serendipity, maturing or a new decade, but at 75, Milan-based composer, Dino A. Betti van der Noot has finally found the perfect vehicle for his carefully buffed, impressionistically melodious, mini-tone poems. Furthermore the two dozen strong ensemble, including many of the country`s top players that he uses, adds the necessary timbral exoticism and cadenced beat to toughen his sometimes translucent melodies.
This reflection of Betti Van Der Noot sonic nirvana takes place within the five miniature suites which make up September’s New Moon, a triumphant session put together in 2011. Revealingly, analyzing his two previous efforts – The Humming Cloud from 2006 and God Save the Earth from 2009 – with many of the same players on board, uncovers a gradual strengthening and whetting of his compositional motifs. But neither reaches the top rank. Despite fine-tuned arrangement and the stirrings of his facility to blend exotic and expected timbres, on those CDs, shading and modulations supersede the necessary pulse that characterizes the most impressive Jazz and improvised music. There are too many flimsy pastels and not enough bold colors.
Despite his talents, Rapallo-born Betti Van Der Noot is practically unknown outside his native Italy. This most likely has to do with his on-again/off-again career in Jazz. Although he led combos in the late 1950s, studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the 1970s and has led big bands occasionally since the 1980s, featuring players as disparate as pianist Paul Bley and clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi, he also had a career in adverting, composing jingles and eventually becoming the chairman of B Communications, a prominent Milan ad agency.
Luckily there are no jingles-like melodies on the first two CDs, despite the presence of vocalists Ginger Brew, Simona Bondanza and Sofia Woodpecker. Putting aside the somewhat naïve sentiments expressed – a drawback that extends to September’s New Moon – the focus is on Van Der Noot’s instrumental work. Throughout The Humming Cloud for instance, the splattering and swaying strings, smoothed saxophone slurs, blurred bass flute puffs, cricket-like marimba beats from Elio Marchesini and frequent Jaco Pastorius-like electric bass lines from Gianluca Alberti, over-harmonize and nearly congeal the tunes. Balancing throughout on the ledge of commercial music – in both senses – without falling over, the pizzicato string jabs don`t appear to lighten the mood, neither do dense brass vamps. If there are echoes of Charles Mingus’ “The Clown” on the title tune for instance even the exotic percussion can’t mask equal suggestions of too-sweet Swing band harmonies. Plus why is Fabrizio Puglisi, one of Italy’s most accomplished Jazz pianists, playing as if he’s emulating Bopper Wade Legge in the latter’s one recording date with Mingus?
Taken as a whole, The Humming Cloud’s most accomplished and appealing track is “From Darkness to Light”. That’s precisely because the steady bump and grind thrust forward by Latin-like percussion, electric bass sluices and lumbering horn harmonies leaves enough space for some hearty gutbucket trombone splats from Beppe Caruso as well as a bluesy release from tenor saxophonist Daniele Cavallanti.
Three years later, the six-part program which makes up God Save the Earth demonstrates that van der Noot consciously or not is now adding unexpected timbres to the mix to loosen up the resonations. These include quivering glissandi and cross pulses from the signal-processing associated with Matteo Corda’s live electronics and sound programming, melodic low-frequency clacks from Alberto Tacchini’s piano and tremolo expansions from different trombonists and trumpeters. With Alberti and Marchesini again given noticeable space for their affiliated, but now expected, specialties, tracks such as “Maybe” and “Alone in the Crowd” which highlight different instrumental colors stand out – and presage Betti Van Der Noot’s later triumphs with September’s New Moon.
On the former track, while the composition is still expressed in muted colors, at least some palate-loosing leads to a three-dimensional effect. From the top, the massed cross-sticking and rumbling power of Francesco D’Auria’s and Tiziano Tononi’s drums and percussion cascades back-and-forth to contrast markedly with formalized piano cadenzas. A similar face-off occurs between Tacchini’s shifting piano arpeggios and the strained slurs from tenor saxophonist Giulio Visibelli. As the harmonized section work hardens into repeated motifs, crunching rhythm undercurrents arise not only from the dual percussionists but from Marchesini plus Vincenzo Zitello’s collection of ethnic instruments, culminating in bell-like accents.
Aptly titled, “Alone in the Crowd” is a showcase for Caruso’s masculine-sounding trombone working its way through a series of limber plunger expositions and flutter tonguing. Around him the tension-laden narrative is given added heft by bulky orchestral sequences. Additionally showcased include: whining, altissimo excursions by alto saxophonist Sandro Cerino – sometimes in juddering counterpoint with D’Auria’s smacked cymbals; cellist Marco Ricci’s knitted or sharp string slices; plus swirling piano lines and unison muted trumpets expositions.
The first-class results of these experiments are expressed in the five, almost completely satisfying sequences which make up September’s New Moon. Finally brighter colors are revealed with flattened impressionistic-style writing succeeded by bolder and more highly tinted dabs and smears. As the variations ping-pong back and forth, the results are juddering and jaunty, with the composer apparently unafraid to let the program shout so that polyphony in all its guises can be present. Electronic-manipulator Coda’s programming now includes swells that could come from Hammond organ, while massed trumpets aim for the highest notes in their range. Pointedly as well, the steady measured electric-bass runs fit the sound picture more organically than they did on previous discs.
Two stand-out tracks, “A Muse in Wonderland” and “To Those Who Loved Us - To Those Who’ll Love Us” sequentially make up the penultimate and the climatic finale of the suite. Finally, on the first, hand-muted brass tones and bouncing drum bits don’t sound isolated. Neither do dizi-puffs from Cerino when put in sympathetic balance alongside Tacchini’s kinetic piano lines and Emmanuelle Perini’s spiccato fiddling.
Appropriately spectacular as well is the finale. Exploding in a mid-section which is as much Klangfarbenmelodie as cacophony, the holistic horn arrangements make common cause with husky electric-bass slurs, rolls and pops from all the drummers and chalumeau slurps from Sandro Cerino’s bass clarinet. Conclusively, as the pitches move from high to low and the beats from irregular to solid, all instruments are combined in chromatic motion, with solos arising in parallel fashion. Piano arpeggios and dizi blowing bring the piece to a halt with a two-pronged reminder of the traditional and exploratory nature of Betti Van Der Noot’s skills.
Now that it appears as if the composer has attained what he has been building up to over the past half decade, the only questions that remain are whether he can build on this triumph and broaden his work much further.
Track Listing: Humming: 1. The Humming Cloud 2. Hubris and Dust 3. From Darkness to Light 4. Our Wild Shangri-La 5. Lullaby for a Lion
Personnel: Humming: Mario Cavallaro, Diego Ruvidotti, Luigi Portoraro and Andrea Baroldi (trumpet and flugelhorn); Graziano Soave, Dario Cozzi (trombone); Alessio Nava (bass trombone); Beppe Caruso (trombone, mellophone and tuba); Sandro Cerino, Daniele Cavallanti, Maria Teresa Battistessa, Daniela Ievolo and Cinzia Castiglione (flutes, clarinets and saxophones); Fabrizio Puglisi (piano); Sergio Taglioni (electronic keyboards and sound programming); Marco Ricci (cello); Gianluca Alberti (electric bass); Vincenzo Zitello (classic, Bardic and Celtic harps); Tiziano Tononi (drums); Elio Marchesini (marimba, vibraphone and percussion); Jonathan Scully (timpani and percussion); Ginger Brew and Simona Bondanza (vocals)
Track Listing: God: 1. God Save the Earth 2. In the Beginning was Beauty 3. Maybe 4. Like a Circle in the Water 5. Alone in the Crowd 6. City Morning
Personnel: God: Alberto Mandarini, Beppe Virone, Marco Sozzi and Andrea Terzuolo (trumpets); Beppe Caruso, Graziano Soave, Dario Cozzi, Sergio Lombardi (trombones and tuba); Sandro Cerino, Giulio Visibelli, Maria Teresa Battistessa, Daniela Ievolo, Gilberto Tarocco (woodwinds and reeds); Alberto Tacchini (piano); Marco Ricci (cello); Gianluca Alberti (electric bass); Francesco D’Auria and Tiziano Tononi (drums and percussion); Elio Marchesini (vibraphone and marimba); Vincenzo Zitello (wire-strung harp, bawu, dizi and kalimba); Matteo Corda (live electronics and sound programming); Ginger Brew and Sofia Woodpecker (vocals)
Track Listing: September: 1. September’s New Moon 2. When Love Fails 3. Bluesea 4. A Muse in Wonderland 5. To Those Who Loved Us -To Those Who’ll Love Us
Personnel: September: Gianpiero Lo Belllo, Alberto Mandarini, Alberto Capra, Luca Calabrese and Marco Fior (trumpet and flugelhorn); Humberto Amesquita, Carlo Napolitano, Francesca Petrolo (trombone); Gianfranco Marchesi (bass trombone); Francesco Bianchi (clarinet and alto saxophone); Sandro Cerino (soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet, flute and alto flute, dizi); Giulio Visibelli (banzuri, soprano and alto saxophones, flute and alto flute); Claudio Tripoli (tenor saxophone and flute); Gilberto Tarocco (alto flute, clarinet and baritone saxophone); Emanuele Parrini (violin); Alberto Tacchini (piano); Luca Ventimiglia (vibraphone); Vincenzo Zitello (clarsach harp); Gianluca Alberti (electric bass); Stefano Bertoli and Tiziano Tononi (drums and percussion); Matteo Corda (live electronics and sound programming); Ginger Brew and Sofia Woodpecker (vocals)
May 26, 2012
Splasc(H) CDH 853.2
Not fully committed to the mainstream but certainly no avant gardist, Italian soprano saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano finds himself in a prototypical situation for a 40-something reedist.
Luckily the native of Bari can turn his interest in various musical streams to his advantage. On a fine CD like this one, made up mostly of his own compositions, he can be like a diner at a fine buffet, putting different condiments on his plate for a more balanced meal. Thus, the repast includes a homage to the American ballad, folkloric suggestions through percussion sounds and his lyrical reed solos, pre-modern trombone work, straightahead jazz from a walking bassist and on-the-beat drummer, and modernistic decorations from the synthesizer and electric piano.
Keyboardist Mirko Signoriles movement between the electric and acoustic models often demarcates the shape of the tunes. Yet as someone who studied with pianist Richie Beirach and played with saxist Greg Osby, the younger Bari resident knows that electricity doesnt automatically mean fusion, or acoustic piano, swing. After all, hes accompanying a saxman whose experience encompasses gigs with avant-garde Italian composer Andrea Centazzos Mitteleuropa Orchestra and Austrian flugelhornist Franz Koglmanns combos, as well as interludes with trombonists like German Albert Mangelsdorff and American Ray Anderson.
Acknowledgment of the different tones that come from the bones bell must have stuck with him, since another distinguishing characteristic of this CD is the contribution of his frontline brass partner. Featured on three tracks, Gianluca Petrella, another Bari native who was in Frances Orchestre National de Jazz and trumpeter Enrico Ravas band, is more of a melody man. Beppe Caruso, Ottavianos partner on three other tunes, is a raucous effects specialist who leads his own half Banda-half Second Line group, Free Air Sextet, and has played with cerebral reedman Gianluigi Trovesi.
Holding down the bottom are two of Italys busiest players, bassist Giovanni Maier and percussionist Roberto Dani. Together they also work as the rhythm section for saxophonist Alberto Pinton, while on his own Maier has recorded with American altoist Tim Berne. In short the eight compositions on POW WOW are well paced and dont stay long enough in any one mode or style to cause ennui
A fine example of this is Karma, which mixes clip clops from a wood block, piano cadenzas and some liquid soprano trills. After Maier provides woody resonation up and down the strings, Signorile takes over, strumming harmonic patterns that expose the keys from top to bottom, finally settling on chiming arpeggios from his right hand. More acquiescent than upfront, Petrella joins Ottaviano in call-and-response patterns.
A sense of fun arrives with Caruso on The Chromatic Sky, which includes double-tonguing, slurred triplets and a rubato formula, with the trombonist sounding every grace note. An approximation of slap bass from Maier and flutter-tongued trills from the saxist embolden the tune still further, as the pianist slides out some funky blues as if he was from the deep South, not South Apulia.
Carusos twisted plunger tones and polyphonic counterlines are displayed on the title tune and Effetti Personali. With Dani playing a shuffle beat and Maier offbeat accents, the faux Hollywood Indian effects of the title vanish under a smooth, double counterpoint lead and Ottavianos chirping timbres. Additionally, the trombonists slurs, slides and speed tonguing highlight the ethnic and brass band heritage he shares with early Dixielanders.
Electric piano cadenza that are half-martial and half 1970s Herbie Hancock here and elsewhere are definitely in a jazz mode. When Petrellas hocketing articulation mixes with them you can hear how you hear how the instrumentalist, not the instrument defines the composition. Sweet and simple as an operative air, Ottavianos bel canto feature Estrellas could almost be a cabaletta. With the piano man playing a light fingered, almost rondo that unrolls in courtly cadences, it sums up the saxman-composers influences from another angle.
Contemporary and classical -- in the historical sense -- at the same time, Ottaviano and his band show how local references can be mixed with ones from outside to produce a satisfying resolution.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. People In Sorrow 2. Karma 3. The Chromatic Sky 4. Pow Wow 5. Estrellas 6. Vagantes 7. Young and Foolish 8. Effetti Personali
Personnel: Gianluca Petrella or Beppe Caruso (trombone); Roberto Ottaviano (soprano saxophone); Mirko Signorile (piano, electric piano, synthesizer); Giovanni Maier (bass); Roberto Dani (drums, percussion objects)
July 19, 2004
GIANLUIGI TROVESI OTTETTO
GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA
Globe Unity 2002
Intakt CD 086
One potential horror comedians are always joking about is a world where the transportation schedules would be set by the Italians and the restaurants run by the British and Germans.
As humorous as this may sound as a situation, these CDs by mid-sized (eight- and nine-piece) bands shows that remarkable sounds can still result if countrymen act antithetically to their clichéd national characteristics.
FUGACE finds eight legendarily anarchistic Italians settling down for 16 short, arranged improvisations that touch on a variety of genres. Conversely, GLOBE UNITY 2002 features nine supposedly restrained Britons and Germans creating almost 74 minutes of some of the most cacophonous hullabaloo since John Coltrane and 10 other improvisers recorded ASCENSION in 1965.
As a matter of fact, Globe Unity, (the band) has always been in the tradition of all-out passionate expression that characterized 1960s aggregations like the Jazz Composers Orchestra, with the added fillip of being international. Over the years since the bands first LP in 1966, membership has swollen to a high of 19, with American, Italian, Dutch and Polish musicians included, until it officially disbanded in 1986.
This one-time, live concert reunion 15 years later finds most of the longtime Globers on hand and confirms that the spirit and excitement the band engendered in its lifetime still exists. As well, 30 years on, a serene quantity has crept into some of the playing.
Leader Alexander von Schlippenbach, for instance, may begin the proceedings with intense, emotional, Romantic arpeggios, but during the course of the one long piece here hell relax into almost conventional jazz club comping and fills. Then when it comes time for his extended solo, his playing seems more bop-like and connected than the style of his first influence, Thelonious Monk. He uses careful voicing and portamento to glide across the keyboard. Building up tension in the Free Jazz sense with serpentine chords and echoing vibrations, his swiftness can resemble that of a player piano. Yet his unaccompanied coda is near pastoral, well modulated and definitely two-handed.
Trumpeter and, flugelhornist Manfred Schoof, who started off as a German version of a so-called Progressive jazzman, reverts to form in his solo spots. At one point he reveals long-lined patterned and focused grace notes that evolve to note-perfect brassy triplets, at another builds up mellow flugelhorn filigree, which when combined with the backing orchestral figures recall MILES AHEAD.
Others have intensified the way they first played 30 years ago. Evan Parker offers a five-minute plus exhibition of louder and softer circular breathing from his soprano sax, that appears to have an unmistakable bagpipe echo. Meantime fellow Briton, trombonist Paul Rutherford, growls and mumbles and rants within his trombone bell, with his snorts and Bronx cheers finally calling forth dampening metallic rim shot action and cymbal crashes from the dual percussionists. His direct musical descendent, German trombonist Johannes Bauer, also exhibits some double-tongued slurs backed with only piano accompaniment.
Dissonance, in all its ear-wrenching glory still inhabits the playing of the two remaining horn men though: Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute and Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone, tarogato and clarinet. One reedist -- though likely not Parker -- ejaculates some split-tone altissimo squeaks near the beginning of the extended piece, the likes of which havent been heard since the heyday of Giuseppi Logan. Much later, peeping tarogato timbres meet up with woody bass clarinet tones, arching from dog-whistle to bird trilling territory.
Then theres a point just past midway where the Ascension-style total band hubbub slackens to expose a protracted series of screeches and multiphonic blasts from the tenormen. The yells and applause from the audience makes it appear that for it, this was the highpoint equivalent of Paul Gonsalves protracted solo on Duke Ellingtons Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blues at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.
As all this is going on, the proper tempo for clangorous explosions and feather light interludes is provided by the Pauline duo on percussion -- Englands Paul Lytton and Germanys Paul Lovens.
Trovesis Ottetto features two drummers as well, but thats about the only symmetry between the two sessions. Old enough -- he was born in 1944 near Bergamo -- to be part of the Globe Unity generation, multi-reedist Trovesi mixed his jazz with studio work earlier in his career. Part of the first generation of Southern European musicians to assert themselves internationally, Trovesi is known for his folklore-tinged work with trumpeter Pino Minafra, and membership in the all-star Italian Instabile Orchestra, which also includes ex-Globe Unity trumpeter Enrico Rava.
Like his other octet sessions though, FUGACE resides in a space of its own, where traditional Italian operatic drama coexists with improvisation, and where the references include veteran local comic Totò as well as Louis Armstrong. Thus on the three-part Totò nei Caraibi, as the pizzicato plucking of the three string players suggests a cartoon cat sneaking across the horizon, other sounds form the band reference a funeral march and echo calypsos.
In the same way, Ramble begins with a note-perfect Dixieland emulation with the drummers exercising their kits with ratamacues and a clip-clop rhythm like duple Baby Dodds, as Trovesi on clarinet makes like Babys older brother -- and Armstrong associate -- Johnny. But trumpeter Massimo Greco reaches for augmented notes too modern for Satchmo, the clarinet is soon trilling in a modernistic folk style reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre, and youd never hear Marco Remondinis arco cello slices anywhere in Trad Jazz. Blasts from trombonist Beppe Caruso, who leads his own fine brass band, form a countermelody that doubles and triples the tempo until the end.
In contrast to the Globe Unity veterans, the reedists is a younger band, made up in the main of musicians who have played with him for about a decade. With Remondini and percussionist Fluvio Maras adding electronics to the mix the Trovesi Eight proffers some unique textures, including a series of linking interludes that sound as if they were created on an electrified harpsichord that snuck in from a Yardbirds session. Thus while Trovesi may sometimes echo Benny Goodman and the unison string section get a bit overwrought in the 1,001 strings tradition, plenty of other slants arise as well.
Blues and West for instance, starts off with enough reverb from the electronica and electric bass slaps plus monochromic drumming to make it sound like a rock band has invaded the studio. In between riffing horns, Trovesi on alto creates some cosmic bop-inflected squeals and Greco plays a soaring, slurred trumpet line. Canto di lavoro goes in the opposite direction. It starts off with an Armstrong-like trumpet cadenza, introduces chalumeau clarinet trills and finishes with a sound that ping-pongs from outer-space whistles from the electronics, and someone, somehow -- perhaps the top strings of the electric bass -- producing a quivering Jimi Hendrix-like electric guitar distortion.
Massed horn riffs often appear to be half banda and half James Browns horn section, Trovesis split tone can often take on a distinctive Arabic inflection and the dual backbeat, if from hand drums, can be as much Savannah as Sardinia.
Improvised music has become such an all-encompassing category that a group can perform in a variety of ways to produce outstanding music, despite national clichés. Globe Unity and the Ottetto demonstrate two excellent versions of these methods.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Fugace: 1. As strange as a ballad 2. Sogno dOrfeo African Triptych: 3. Wide Lake 4. Scarlet Dunes 5. Western Dream 6. Canto di lavoro 7. Clumsy dancing of the fat bird 8. Siparietto I 9. Blues and West 10. Siparietto II 11. Il Domatore 12. Ramble 13. Siparietto III 14. Fugace 15. Siparietto IV 16. Totò nei Caraibi
Personnel: Fugace: Massimo Greco (trumpet, electronics); Beppe Caruso (trombone); Gianluigi Trovesi (alto saxophone, piccolo, alto clarinets); Marco Remondini (cello, electronic); Roberto Bonati (bass); Marco Micheli (bass, electric bass); Fluvio Maras (percussion, electronics); Vittorio Marinoni (drums)
Track Listing: Globe: 1. Globe Unity 2002
Personnel: Globe: Manfred Schoof (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paul Rutherford and Johannes Bauer (trombones); Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (alto saxophone, clarinet, flute); Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, tarogato, clarinet); Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones); Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano); Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton (drums)
December 1, 2003
Seize the time!
Splasc(h) CDH 841/842
During the years since its founding in December of 1980, the Milanese band Nexus has always stood at a little distance from many of the other Italian aggregations.
Although its leaders, saxophonist Daniele Cavallanti and percussionist Tiziano Tononi, were so a much part of the flowering of original local improv scene that both have been part of the Italian Instabile Orchestra from its beginnings, they never had the overriding commitment to Mediterranean folklore that galvanized many other musicians. At the same time they didnt fit in with the old bebopers or Young Lions who took their cues from American jazz.
Cavallanti and Tononi -- and by extension Nexus -- took inspiration from the socio-political ferment that mulched together to make up international experimental music in the 1960s and 1970s in groups like the Jazz Composers Orchestra (JCO) and Charlie Hadens Liberation Music Orchestra. Yet added to this was their own interests in sounds ranging from the musics of Java, Bali, West Africa and the Caribbean, to rock, country blues, contemporary classical and New music, not to mention the local political situation. Together the ingredients were mixed together to create Nexuss own brand of musical espresso.
Now, two decades on, Cavallanti and Tononi have gathered together many of their former sidemen and others to honor the bands 20th anniversary with more than 2½ hours of distinctive Nexus music on two CDs. Memorable as more than a commemorative celebration, the first disc includes new compositions with its centrepiece Tonzonis almost 52½-minute The Bloodrumspirit Suite. The other CD expands the group to 23 pieces for some improvisations and a more than 56-minute updating of trombonist Roswell Rudds Numatik Swing Band suite, recorded by the JCO in 1971. Not only is the composer in attendance -- and soloing -- on his own piece, but he adds his ebullient presence and avant-gutbucket horn to the first CD as well.
Its obvious from both suites that, like many of their fellow countrymen, Nexuss padrones feel brevity is no virtue. But when you have a band chock full of expressive soloists, and first-class material on which they can play, why not give them their collective head?
Consider The Bloodrumspirit Suite, for instance. The music is high intensity almost from its first note. Understandably the composer gives himself leeway and the piece is awash in the rumble of snares, sizzle of cymbals, shaking of bell trees and scrape of a guiro -- all without losing the impeccable rhythmic structure that drives the band. Meanwhile, longtime Tononi associate, pianist Alberto Tacchini is creating insistent rolling arpeggios, and trumpeter Herb Robertson is mixing Cat Anderson-like treetop notes with Bubber Miley-style growls. Add to this constant ascending riffs from the horns and a baritone sax lead -- courtesy of Cavallanti -- that goes from thundering snarls to mid-range honks, trills and pops.
Theres a Mingusian trope in the transitional section, but while the drummer pounds and the reeds vamp, Rudds contribution is powerful, but more conventionally comely than his usual rough-and-rowdy ways with a slide. It exposes his infrequently heard Lawrence Brown side, rather than his usual Kid Ory persona. Later, on the last section of the piece Riccardo Luppi showcases a breathy, goat-like piccolo counterline to the riffing saxophone section, as Tacchinis fills range from vaguely symphonic rubato chords to tougher, hard bop swing. Cavallanti playing a Getzian tenor sax, while Luppi on alto and Robertson combine for a legato run-through of the balladic potential of the music. Later the trumpeter sounds a set of triplets, explores the insides of his horn, and then brassily reprises the theme. Scads of notes spew from the two bassists, then all the horns and guitarist Roberto Cecchetto make up a extended final crescendo.
All the while, Cecchetto and other extroverts ensure that these tunes merely serve as the outer target circles of the suites absolute bulls eye -- the 20-minute plus New Shades of Babalù (Ayé). Beginning anthemic and tutti, its primary theme is intersected with percussion rumbles, plunger trombone work, some atonal soprano work from Renato Geremia and an ascending chromatic trumpet solo from Luca Calabrese. Then the guitarist takes over, showcasing a simple blues-rock progression that gets more distorted and more psychedelically embellished as it unrolls. With the horns riffing in the background he mutates the line from Woodstock to West Coast Jump blues, recalling T-Bone Walker as well as Canned Heat.
Tononis idiosyncratic clip clops sound throughout as Lauro Rossi takes a near-Trad Jazz plunger solo and Geremia reappears scratching away harshly on violin in the best Billy Bang-Stuff Smith tradition. With most of the horsehair action taking place on the narrowest parts of the strings near the pegs, he doublestops and mutates his solo into a Northern Italian hoe-down. Finally the extravaganza runs down, but not before Robertson shakes a series of triplets over the other sounds; Tito Mangialajo and Giovanni Maier rappel over the string in unison pizzicato; and Tononi shows off the timbres from his log drum, talking drum and bata.
With one exception, Rudds Numatik Swing Band suite is pretty spectacular as well. The misstep occurs on Lullaby for Greg, where vocalist Roberta Parsi proves conclusively that she isnt Sheila Jordan. As heartfelt as her reading of the lyrics may be, it sounds as if the mewling vocal was recorded phonetically, with Riccardo Pittaus half-valve, split-tone trumpet plunger work easily outclassing it.
On other tracks band members show off their close coordination, which allow them to pass parts to one another with split-second timing and no lessening of inspiration. This is especially apparent on BreathA Howard (the flat-foot version), Circulation and Aerosphere. Raucous quasi-Dixieland, the first features tubaist Beppe Caruso, clarinetist Piero Ponzo, Tacchini playing honky-tonk piano and the dual percussionists laying down a shuffle beat. Like New Yorks Bob Stewart, Caruso has a coarse timbre that he uses to toughen up his awkward horns clownish reputation. Polymetric and polyrhythmic, the clarinet and tuba tones bounce every which way, then combine for a shouting climax. A cappella tuba snorts make up the coda.
Rudds inner Tricky Sam Nanton gets a workout on Circulation as his plunger-muted horn first trades licks with Luca Bonvini until Michele Bienvenuti makes it a trombone choir. Then a heavily swinging Rudd elbows both of them to the side with some colorful slide work, exposing both his Ory and Brown sides as the band riffs behind him. Expanding to a Swing Era hand clapper, the tune gains a piano-driven boogie-woogie undercurrent as Rudds chromatic solo gives way to a steady sax-led vamp. Finally the basses and percussionists slacken the beat so the trombonist can exit with a smooth legato flourish.
So-called World music, sophisticated studio sounds and atonal jazz join together on Aerosphere, where Jungle band horn shakes meet Afro-Cuban percussion and kettle drum whacks. Reprising their partnership from Disc 1 are trumpeter Calabrese -- slurring out Eurobop triplets high in the air -- and guitarist Cecchetto -- exercising his effects pedal to such an extent that he starts to sound as if hes wielding a penny whistle. Following a modulated, Pepper Adams-like baritone interjection from Cavallanti, altoist Sandro Satta triple tongues the theme after masticating it to squeeze out all its flavor. Hullabaloo soon gives way to precision as the band members regroup, reconstituting themselves into a polished swinging machine -- part Count Basie and part Billy May -- within seconds. Both bassists trade fours and the piece fades out with the entire band undulating atonally while playing what Sun Ra used to call a space chord.
In the same unclassifiable genre the bandsmen -- without Rudd -- reveal yet another set of interests on Vanhu Vatema, written by Thomas Mapfumo from Zimbabwe and arranged by Tononi. Imagine an Italian banda marching through the Townships and you may get an idea of the result. Advancing the theme with brushes -- and aided by chunky rhythm guitar licks -- the percussionist encourages call and response sections from the horns, with the laughing trombone of Caruso, who leads his own Free Air (brass) Sextet, taking the raucous lead. Eventually with everyone allowed to honk, toot, hit or strum, the good times end.
Those good times are what you too will experience playing this set through from the beginning to end or in sections. As they have before, Cavallanti and Tononi have proven with these two CDs that Nexus is one of the most exciting and unique aggregations going -- in any country.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Disc 1. 1. The Nexus The Bloodrumspirit Suite: 2. Continuous Performance+ 3. Transitional Mood/Meter+ 4. New Shades of Babalù (Ayé)+ 5. Nu Dance for Old Saints 6. Minutes* Disc 2.% Numatik Swing Band: 1. Vent 2. BreathA Hoard (the flat-foot version) 3. Circulation 4. Lullaby for Greg^ 5. Aerosphere 6. Improvisation for Orchestra #2 7. Improvisation for Orchestra #3 8. Vanhu Vatema
Personnel: Herb Robertson [Disc 1](trumpet, pocket trumpet); Luca Calabrese, Riccardo Pittau [Disc 2], Mario Cavallaro [Disc 2] (trumpet) Beppe Caruso (trombone-Disc 1; tuba, shells - Disc 2); Gianluigi Paganelli (tuba, shells - Disc 2); Lauro Rossi [Disc 1], Giancarlo Schiffini [Disc 1], Michele Bienvenuti [Disc 2] (trombone); Luca Bonvini [Disc 2] (trombone, slide trumpet); Roswell Rudd [except*] (trombone, euphonium); Brunello Gorla, Cristina Pini, Claudia Lissoni (French horn)%; Piero Ponzo [Disc 2] (clarinet); Roberto Ottaviano [Disc 1] (soprano saxophone); Renato Geremia (soprano and alto saxophones, flute); Achille Succi [Disc 1] (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Sandro Satta [Disc 2] (alto saxophone); Riccardo Luppi (alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, alto flute and piccolo); Daniele Cavallanti (tenor and baritone saxophones); Alberto Tacchini (piano); Roberto Cecchetto (guitar); Tito Mangialajo, Piero Leveratto [Disc 1], Paolino DellaPorta [Disc 2] Giovanni Maier+ (bass); Tiziano Tononi (drums, congas, percussion, log drum talking drum, bata, gongs); Jonathan Scully [Disc 2] (tympani percussion); Roberta Parsi (vocals^)
September 29, 2003
Free Air Sextet
Splasc(H) Records CDH 768.2
Firmly in the school of Crescent City joy makers like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band or the Treme Brass Band, the Italian Free Air Sextet led by tuba player Beppe Caruso, invests the 12 tracks on its debut CD with a sense of good-timey fun.
At the same time, the breath of material handled here, mostly written by Caruso encompasses Dixieland, funk, bop, Latin and the traditional tarantella and includes tunes by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Which is to say that while the tubaist, who has brought his talents to bands led by pianist Giorgio Gaslini and percussionist Tiziano Tononi is no dour tuba experimenter like Leo Bachmann of Switzerland or his countryman Gincarlo Schiaffini, everything is at a high musical standard here. If anything the CD is reminiscent of improvisational bands led by American tubaists Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart that didnt fall into the simple schtick of New Orleans brass bands, yet were still festive enough to offer a good time.
Here Caruso brews all his influences into The Crazy Composition a more-than-17-minute track, that at almost three times the length of any of the 11 other tunes, is obviously the centrepiece of the CD. Beginning with a wispy muted trumpet lead, sad, lumbering tuba lines and what sounds like percussionist Ferdinando Faraò pensively hitting a Dominican tambora, it soon turns into a dual trumpet Dixieland showcase complete with hand claps and clip-clop rhythms from Faraòs woodblocks.
Reconstituting the tune as a Charleston, the drummers rhythm turns two-beat, complete with crash cymbal work as wah-wah plunger tones appear from the trombones. As soon as youve acclimatized yourself to that, Carusos blues motif turns to a brassy pedal point as a polished salsa beat arises from the flugelhorns, only to disappear under the tuba mans R&B-style blasts and a trumpet peal straight from a rural banda. As the whoosh of air being forced through brass valves is succeeded by Gil Evans-style unison arrangement, one trumpet stretches out with some light Tijuana Brass-like fanfares.
Caruso, a cappella, is then on his own, rhythmically growling like a bass-baritone blues singer then sinking even lower in the clef to squeeze out some snorts. A modernistic cymbal slap introduces a march rhythm from all the horns, which is half-monotone John Philip Sousa and half-rubato Anthony Braxton. Finally, as one trumpet plays some Cool jazz blues, the drummer jiggles his bell tree, press rolls the snares, hits the hi-hat and sums up the piece with a rim shot. Whew. In the end The Crazy Composition more appropriately could be titled the crazy-like-a-fox composition.
Meanwhile, La Danza Siculo-Balcanica/All The Things You Are is a pastiche of Afro-Cuban rhythms, with the drummer playing rumbas and boleros, the screechy trumpets seemingly involved in a Mexican hat dance routine, and Faraòs congas, bongos and tambourine reconfiguring a tango into a cha-cha-cha once Jerome Kerns theme makes its appearance. Going Steve Turre one better, Roberto Rossi produces some muted plunger tones from his shell.
Gentle double-tongued, shell sounds make their appearance on Impression, with Carusos tuba taking the walking bass part, Faraò subtly playing with brushes and the front line chromatically sounding the melody in different pitches. Additionally the trap mans own Brio showcases enthusiastic vigor, fleet footed and quick of hands on wood blocks, cowbell and bass drum pedal. By his side one of the trumpeter plays a flutter tongues Mariachi beat. In contrast, Snare-Scacco Matto, written by Caruso isnt a drum showcase, but with interruptions from what sounds like car brakes screeching to a halt -- the shell again? -- one of the bone men builds up a slurry, growly solo accompanied by pedal point tuba. Marching feet in tandem, some tap dance-like drumming and cymbal work, and a heraldic coda from the combined brass brings things to a close.
Tarantella does the same for the CD, where the pumping 6/8 rhythm in alternating major and minor keys is goosed up with tambourine whacks and repetitive hand clapping. As the improvised lines are passed from one brassman to the next, the sextet proves that it can country dance as well as Second Line --, not to mention keep the beat and improvise.
Who knows what else colorful Caruso will create next time out?
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.Funkaruso 2. The Crazy Composition 3. Round Midnight 4. Snare - Scacco Matto 5. Intro Doom Godini 6. Brio 7. Doom Godini 8. La Danza Siculo- Balcanica/All The Things You Are 9. Calcolo 10. Impression 11. Blues for DDB 12. Tarantella
Personnel: Mario Cavallaro, Luca Calabrese (trumpets and flugelhorns); Danilo Moccia (trombone); Roberto Rossi (trombone and shell); Beppe Caruso (tuba); Ferdinando Faraò (drums and percussion)
June 3, 2003