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Friday, March 4, 2011

Sax and piano

Giovanni Di Domenico & Alexandra Grimal - Ghibli (Sans Bruit, 2011) ****½

 By Stef

Usually I get the "Sans Bruit" releases by mail (thanks Stéphane), but I couldn't wait, so I bought it right away once it became digitally available, because I am a fan of French saxophonist Alexandra Grimal, who we find back again with Italian pianist Giovanni Di Domenico, who composed most of the pieces of this album.

In their previous quartet effort - "Seminare Vento" -  I mentioned that I would have loved a little less beaten track, and I must say they fully deliver the goods on this album. Both musicians can color deftly outside the lines and they do so on other albums, yet here their lyricism takes the spotlight, and how! Limiting the line-up to piano and soprano gives Di Domenico's music more space and freedom, with less constraints of form, and the result is excellent.

Di Domenico's compositions are very impressionistic and abstract at the same time, kind of open-ended at first listen, yet quite well-structured too. One illustration: "Earworm" starts with a long and meandering unison line between both musicians, then it's dropped for what sounds like free improvisation, ranging between jazz, classical, with the sax adding some middle-eastern tonal changes, changing tempo, rhythm and mood, like a mini-suite, only to end all of a sudden again with the opening unison theme.

The music is lightfooted and playful, or sensitive and light. That several of the pieces are called "Koan", the zen-buddhist paradox, gives you an idea of the importance of the surprise, the creative angle that you can expect.

Grimal's tone is phenomenal, as I described in earlier reviews, yet Di Domenico gives her a unique opportunity to really shine : the intimate compositions and atmospheres that he creates form the wonderful context for Grimal's superb playing, just listen to her solo intro on "Koan N° 3".

This is as light and warm and deep as it gets. 

The title "Ghibli" is the name of the wind that blows over the Lybian desert.

Buy from Sans Bruit.

Joel Futterman & Ike Levin - Dialogues and Connections (Charles Lester Music, 2010) ****

Don't get deceived by the somewhat kitschy art work, the music is as real and authentic as it gets: two seasoned musicians drawing from their broad backgrounds to offer some astonishing stylistic variations and genre-bending dynamics to dialogue and to create really great music.

Just to give one example: "Conversation One, Part 3", starts with Futterman's abstract string-plucking, dark and resonating, with Levin's bass clarinet bringing incredible timbral variations of restrained agony, suddently moving into impressionistic and voiced piano-playing, as a lead-in for a calm and lyrical solo, both jazzy and classical at the same time, with again a sudden change into boppish, heavily accentuated playing, somewhat going haywire again, into more free improvisations, abstract, harsh and expressive, but in a way which is staggering, creating together, shaping the music together almost telepathically, full of unexpected twists and turns which they take together and seamlessly, like a well-trained couple of ice-dancers: acrobatic and refined, full of discipline and skills, but then fully improvised.

Their history is of performing together is much longer and deeper than the three albums they released as a duo so far, and you can hear it with every note they play. These guys really enjoy what they do, and they do it full of grace and authenticity.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Listen to some extracts from a recent performance of the duo

© stef