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Friday, April 7, 2023

Augusto Pirodda Septet – The Monkey and The Monk (El Negocito Records, 2023)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

It is almost impossible to say that you enjoy every release from any label’s catalogue. Of course there are preferences based on a billion personal and subjective aspects, but for me the main reason to like, or not, a label is the diversity of its catalogue. This is the case of Belgian El Negocito. I can definitely say that not all of its releases work for me but, at the same time, there is no such thing as a definitive “sound” coming from the label. Play any of its cd’s or LP’s and you could never tell. In today’s oversaturation of mannerism and the burden of mythologized (in order to sell more) “traditions” this is so refreshing.

This first recording of the septet by pianist Augusto Pirodda (a “concerto for jazz septet in three movements” as it is sub-titled) has its core on jazz, reminding a bit Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra with a much more minimal approach, but with the use of electronics and a modern, avant-garde even, approach to composition, poses more questions than the answers given by any jazz based ensemble.

Apart from Pirodda, Ben Sluijs is on alto sax and alto flute, Lynn Cassiers on voice and electronics, Sam Comerford on tenor, bass sax and clarinet, Laurent Blondiau on trumpet and flugelhorn, Manolo Cabras on bass and Marek Patrman on drums. This pan-European ensemble moves through jazz’s many branches in almost an hour of music. The sounds are always fragile but also totally agile and flexible. Moving from duos and trios up to small snippets of the septet’s full blown attack, each player has the room to come forth but also dissolve his or her sound into the collective mind of the septet.

All of them seem seeped in jazz traditions but they very clearly, and easily, escape the grey zone which is also the comfort zone for jazz aficionados. As I mentioned earlier there are no easy ways to find out what comes next, apart from close listening with open ears. We definitely do not need another recording that just follows the manual of a “good” jazz recording.

Even when you hear a duo coming forth or when the septet is playing in unison, the focus is on the collective sound of their music. The music is energetic and vibrant, one of those recordings that make you want to listen more. It is no exaggeration to comment that this is something new with old materials. I found it really hard to pin down what elements brought to the music by Pirodda himself and which ones came from the other musicians. This non-hierarchical feeling traverses through all three tracks of the cd.