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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Roberto Del Piano - La Main Qui Cherche La Lumière (Improvising Beings, 2016) ****

Roberto Del Piano has been a stalwart of the Italian free jazz scene of the 1970s, with stints in some of the most significant ensembles of the period, from Gaetano Liguori’s Idea Trio to Guido Mazzon’s Gruppo Contemporaneo. After a period of voluntary retirement, in recent years he resumed playing in both jazz and free improvisation, and this double CD is actually the first release credited solely to him. 

The first disc gathers a series of collective improvisations by a group consisting of Del Piano on electric bass, Silvia Bolognesi on acoustic bass, Massimo Falascone on saxophones and Pat Moonchy on vocals. Live electronics, handled by Falascone, Moonchy and a few guests, have and important role in defining the general mood of the album, combining old-fashioned sounds with a forward-thinking attitude that give the record a dark, intriguing cinematic atmosphere. "Scarlinga Merlùss" exemplifies the complex character of the album, with Bolognesi and Del Piano's probing bass lines contrasted by Falascone’s pungent sax excursions and Moonchy’s eerie vocalizing, over an electronic backdrop complete with sampled voice readings and shifting noise modulations. The research for a more readable dimension comes to fruition on a couple of later pieces: in “Waisvisz”, after a long introduction of high-pitched exchanges between voice, saxophone and electronics, Bolognesi launches a bouncing ostinato that provides the musicians a springboard for a busy exchange of melodic ideas. The synth of the following “Swami Takabanda” wouldn’t be out of place in the soundtrack for an Italian sci-fi movie from the Sixties, but it eventually leaves space for the basses to build a throbbing pulse over which Falascone builds an agile, continually inventive solo.

The second disc features a more familiar concept and instrumentation, focused on distinct free jazz traits and tighter instrumental exchanges, but the results are far from predictable. The record is organized in different instrumental combinations, with a series of duets by Del Piano with Marco Colonna on clarinets, trios with Stefano Giust on drums, and quartets with Falascone on alto and baritone saxes. The opening “Meeting in Milan” features clarinet and baritone at their most aggressive, screaming over a thunderous base of bass and drums – a declaration of intents, establishing an uncompromising space of action for the following tracks. But soon the atmosphere changes, with the musicians free to follow their diverse attitudes. “Quiet Place” highlights Colonna’s passion for melodic explorations; “Mirrors” his mastery of circular breathing technique, complemented by Falascone’s concise delivery. Giust’s taste for unusual timbres and broken rhythms is evident in pieces like “Scratch” or “Polyphonic Organization”, while Del Piano participates in the performance without indicating any particular direction, sometimes suggesting clear-cut rhythmic lines (“Tired Blues”), but mostly using the electric bass as a pure improvising voice.

Combining an unusual free improvisation session and an equally engaging free jazz meeting in the same package, La Main Qui Cherche La Lumière is not only an effective overview of Del Piano’s distinctive style and different activities, but it also offers a precious occasion to discover some of the excellent voices that animate today’s Italian free music scene.

Roberto Del Piano: electric bass 
Massimo Falascone: alto and baritone saxophones, Ipad, crackle box, live electronics 
Pat Moonchy: vocals, TAI machine 
Silvia Bolognesi: double bass 
Roberto Masotti: crackle box 
Robin Neko: crackle synth 
Paolo Falascone: double bass 

Roberto Del Piano: electric bass 
Marco Colonna: clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet 
Stefano Giust: drums 
Massimo Falascone: alto and baritone saxophones