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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stefano Pastor - Freedom (Slam, 2010) ****

As a tribute to the free jazz greats, "Freedom" is a bizarre album, but then in the positive way. The line-up is already special, with Stefano Pastor on violin, George Haslam on baritone sax and tárogató, Gianni Lugo on soprano sax, and Giorgio Dini on double bass. So you get three solo instruments and one bass to play the rhythmic parts and the thematic backbone, if any.

As Pastor writes in the liner notes : "It is my belief that, in choosing to play jazz or to relate to jazz, a musician is bound to feel at ease within the context of a libertarian and egalitarian culture, namely a revolutionary and popular culture; he cannot escape it, on grounds of his intellectual consistency".

And the music on this album has this quality : all musicians are free to join as and when they see fit, they react spontaneously to themes thrown into the group, join in unison, or improvise in parallel lines. The end result is quite charming and even intimate, while also trying to make the political statement above come true.

The most typical example of this is the third track, "Emancipation", on which the three solo instruments start quite avant-gardistic with short bursts of sounds without clear pattern, yet reacting to each other like a conversation of birds, yet gradually unison lines emerge, with some great "blue" notes adding a jazz element, then shifting to gospel, still in relative free form, and then halfway through the track Dini's bass joins with a steady vamp, pulling the soloists along with him and Haslam's baritone builds a great theme, with violin and tarogato playing a parallel countertheme, then all three continue soloing through each other, beautifully, respectfully.

Even if there are themes, the fun is to play with them and around them. The fact that Pastor's violin sounds more voiced than you would expect from the instrument, with a somewhat hoarse quality, brings it close in timbre to the saxes, creating a great unity in the interweaving layers of improvised phrases. Some pieces are meditative, like "Elevation", others more "harmolodic" in the Ornette Coleman sense, such as "Dance", that also contains swing elements, and with Haslam by coincidence or on purpose playing a phrase from "Happy House".

Without being too overly adventurous, the musicians create a real fun approach to jazz, alternating well between meditative parts and moments of joy.

© stef