RICCARDO FASSI

Vite In Sospeso - Belleville
Splasc(h) Records CDH 810.2

Creating a "jazz" soundtrack is more difficult than it sounds. Not only does the jazzman have the usual film scorer's challenge of trying to make an impression with his music while complimenting the visuals, but he also has to figure how to work improvisation into the overall scheme of things,

Seasoned film composer and bandleader Fassi has managed to do so by the simplest possible means: two-sixths of the specially created Strange Noise Project are a couple of Europe's best improvisers: Paris-based, American expatriate Lacy and Sardinian accordionist Antonello Salis.

How well the music reflects the story of two estranged brothers coming to terms with Italy's 1970s wave of political violence is moot. The prize-winning film, which deals with an Italian terrorist turned French industrialist explaining his past to his child, is so far a European phenomenon. Here the music must be judged on its own.

That's unfortunate. For with three versions each of "Gare De Lyon" and "Belleville", four of "Eugenia" and six (!) of "Sospetto" — one that clocks in at a mere 38 seconds — it's hard to not hear some of the sounds as mere reflections of what's happening on the screen. Even one version of "Sospetto", which at 10:05 appeared to give some scope to improvisation, is actually mislabeled on the sleeve, and comes in at only a little longer than the three minute mark

Still the featured musicians do what they can with the score. Lacy's plaintive, sweet'n'sour soprano sound is never less than distinctive, and with minimal percussion and piano backing helps create melancholy aura of suspension on the mis-timed "Sospetto". When given some room to stretch out, as on "Eugenia", he and the others come up with unsentimental tone poem for the love interest that avoids the cloying emotion of the violin-piano version. Salis fares less well. Someone who has worked in a pure improv situation with Evan Parker, he may have been disappointed that the accordion is limited to two traditional roles here — sobbing pensiveness and triumphant jollity. Even the composer's piano work seems only to advance the (unseen) story rather than to let loose.

All this shouldn't be seen in a negative light. As a soundtrack, the use of motifs and submotifs stitch together what seem to be different plot strands into a fine garment and BELLEVILLE's catchy main theme is certainly as pleasant — and musically stronger — then most tinseltown products. But as jazz the garment has too many dropped stitches to be really functional. It ends up resembling a mini skirt introduced to a situation that calls for sumptuous evening wear.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Gare De Lyon 2. Belleville 3. Eugenia 4. . Gare De Lyon 5. Sospetto 6. . Gare De Lyon 7. Sospetto 8. Eugenia 9. Sospetto 10. Belleville 11. Eugenia 12. Sospetto 13. Eugenia 14. Sospetto 15. Sospetto 16. Belleville

Personnel: Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone); Ruben Chaviano (violin); Antonello Salis (accordion); Riccardo Fassi (piano); Steve Cantarano (bass); Alfredo Minotti (percussion)