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Friday, July 22, 2016

Magimc - Area Sismica (Setola Di Maiale, 2015) ***1/2

Magimc is a trio formed by Edoardo Marraffa on tenor and sopranino saxophones, Thollem McDonas on piano and Stefano Giust on drums and percussions. This is their second album together, a live recording of a concert held at Area Sismica, one of Italy's main venues for free music.

Marraffa, a powerful voice in Italian free jazz and a veteran of the scene, has an immediately recognizable tone on the tenor saxophone, reminiscent of the tradition of Fire Music, capable of intense atonal cries but also of more restrained tone color explorations.

McDonas, a pianist and composer from California, shows impeccable technique and a strong contemporary sensibility, with an elegant approach to both melodic and harmonic developments. Giust, another important figure in the Italian free improvisation scene, acts as a sort of bridge between the freer expressions of the saxophone and the richly layered excursions from the piano, assuming different roles depending on the necessities of the performance, keeping all together or providing additional ideas with diverse stylistic approaches to the kit.

The record follows a typical free music encounter, with the musicians carefully listening to each other, testing moods and expressions before committing to a common language. The group shows strong affinity and cohesiveness from the beginning, but the exploration process is always in full display, presenting an engaging overview of different improvisational strategies, from textural soundscapes to powerful rhythmic explosions, from simultaneous free jazz attacks to delicate melodic passages.

Each musician has a strong personality, and the contrast of styles and instrumental voices constitute one of the most interesting aspects of this album, a sonic snapshot of both a working group and a spontaneous musical meeting, showing all the subtleties, difficulties and brilliant solutions to that most difficult task — listening and talking to each other, in spite of the differences.