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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Windy Season – Tidal (Amirani, 2012) ***½

By Dan Sorrells

The latest from Italian saxophonist Gianni Mimmo’s Amirani label is an unusual “wind quartet,” featuring Mimmo’s soprano sax along with trombone, trumpet, bassoon, and a handful of other breath-activated instruments. Though wind may get things off the ground, Tidal sticks pretty closely to its restless ocean theme, the music reflecting the tug and pull of the tides. The group is essentially unmoored, an inflowing and outflowing of horns with no rhythm section to keep them safely anchored.

Tidal is entirely improvised, but unlike a lot of recent free improvisation, there’s not much by way of extended technique here. And refreshingly, it’s not needed; the group creates immersive soundscapes through carefully selected notes, expert layering of distinct timbres, and a great use of the natural reverb in the Fondazione Remotti museum. “Humpback Song” eerily captures the feeling of whale song materializing from somewhere in deep sea darkness, while “Line and Its Fragility” jostles a mournful trumpet in increasingly rough waters. Alessio Pisani’s contra-bassoon (which positively thunders in “Amphidromic” and “Rogue Wave”) is an awesome inclusion, its substantial tone evoking the immense expanse of the ocean, or at times, even the weighty pull of gravity itself.

The album closes with the subtly sinister “Westerlies Tale,” a long, dark gale that funnels down into a beautiful solo spot by Mimmo before things are swept to their conclusion. Tidal is an impressive slab of music, and I look forward to more from these Italian musicians. The liner notes briefly touch on amphidromes—“mathematically” still points in the ocean where tides do not exist—and the cotidal lines that radiate in all directions from these points of stillness, of “silence.” Perhaps I’ll close on that interesting image: the idea of some silent, equalized point and then—suddenly—noise, ebbing and flowing, sound emanating, being pulled like fine threads by some great force compelling and unseen, but also familiar, reassuring.