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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gianni Lenoci Hocus Pocus 4 (feat. Taylor Ho Bynum): Empty Chair (Silta Records, 2013) ****½

Reviewed by Joe

Wow, feels like I've been transported back into the late 70s. Gianni Lenoci  plays something that immediately reminds me of the romantic type of music that Keith Jarrett's great quartet - with Redman, Haden and Motian - excelled at. Swirling melodies with unison sax and trumpet, piano underlining the chord structure, bass and drums play rubato as the group and harmony asks. Or at least that's how the record starts!

Gianni Lenoci has a fine group - Lenoci (piano), Vittorio Gallo (soprano sax), Pasquale Gadaleta (double bass), Giacomo Mongelli (drums) and as a guest Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet). The choice of Taylor Ho Bynum is a great idea, his playing is particularly well suited to this music. It's a context where  Bynum is able to use his extended techniques but also play melodic lines when needed. Lenoci is no slouch either, his piano playing is always fresh and like Ho Bynum he uses his instruments possibilities, sometimes percussively or at others its melodic qualities. 

The eleven tracks on the album are all of a really high quality. There are four - I guess - improvised duets which feature Ho Bynum and one of the group members; Reflective Darks (tk3) is a bass/cornet duet, Raw (tk5) drums/cornet, Sparrows (tk7) sax/cornet, and Ombra (tk9) is for piano/cornet. These duets give the listener an impression of almost eavesdropping on the musicians. The duets are all very creative and Taylor Ho Bynum's cornet is clearly inspired by each pairing, fine stuff!    

As for the longer pieces each one has a well constructed theme and solos that develop. This doesn't mean that you get a traditional theme-solos-theme set up, the group really lets rip on some of the material. As mentioned earlier the first track reminds me a little of early period Keith Jarrett, but the other pieces are far from there. "Empty Chair" (tk2) swings away although with a moving tonal centre. "Turning Cucumbers" (tk4) has Lenoci dampening (or prepared objects?) the strings to get a pizzicato effect before playing a more traditional role. On some pieces Vittorio Gallo blows some strange sounds using a home made instrument (?) sounding at times like a happy-hippo. "Graduale" (tk6) is a delicate piece that could collapse at any moment if someone makes a wrong move. "Reverse" (tk8) dances away with counter melodies from the two horns before some excellent free-bop New Orleans type of grove takes over. "Kretek" (tk10) is a turbulent piece with soloists riding the storm out as best they can!

Certainly highly recommended for all who enjoy open ended modern free music, but with a healthy respect for tradition. There's plenty of melodic twists and turns and never a dull moment. Each soloist manages to stay focused on creative ideas which fit perfectly in the style of the music.

Although there are no videos of the group (with Ho Bynum) I did find a few interesting links which you can follow up here:

- Excellent video of the group. They play one of the tracks "Empty Chair" from the CD here. 
- An hour long video of the band live here.
- You can listen to the album on E-Music just here


Anonymous said...

I downloaded this last night and can highly recommend as well. Get it!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,
thank you so much for your review!
all my best
Gianni Lenoci