TINO TRACANNA/PAOLINO DALLA PORTA

Nudes
Splasc(h) Records CDH 703.2

Try a porn Web site if prurience is your interest, for the nudes showcased by these two journeyman Italian musicians are merely naked improvisations. Modern mainstreamers, Tracanna and Dalla Porta have played with a cross section of American and Italian improvisers over the past few years and bring those sensibilities to their work here.

The only nakedness on this set is the experiment of working in duo with no other instruments to cover you if any mistakes are made. All the compositions are original as well, which means neither man can wear the comfortable clichés of expected melodies, harmonies or rhythms on any track.

Most tunes are lightly swinging, with Tracanna showing the strong influence of his chief role model, Steve Lacy, and Dalla Porta, calling forth the advances of most liberated modern jazz bassists. On "Continuum," for instance Charles Mingus' massive strength seems to be the basis of his work. Later, on "Quite possible" — the most outside of the tracks — the bassist experiments with guitar-style fingering and exploring the strings beneath his bass's bridge to get an electroacoustic effect.

However, Tracanna's insistence on using the soprano almost exclusively and almost ignoring his other horns is the biggest defect here. While his tone may work on a Monkish romp like his own "Born in the Zoo", the instrument's narrow range soon starts to grate on the ears, despite this session being barely 49 minutes long. Even the use of the tenor on "Crossroad" sounds as if the two musicians are merely reprising an earlier riff with different instruments. Plus forcing Dalla Porta to carry all the rhythmic weight throughout limits his ability to innovate. Both men come across as conventional musicians who lack the experimental skills and, maybe, the forethought to make duo session work.

In all, NUDES shows that not everyone can aspire to see himself as a musical Playmate of the Year. Just as successfully posing in the altogether is limited to certain sensuous individuals, musicians who deep down would be more comfortable working as part of a group should probably not exposure their naked talents for all to hear.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Sequence 2. Born in the zoo 3. Il piccolo principle 4. Crossroad 5. Contrnuum 6. India gate 7. Balc 8. Blue 9. Kim 10. Quite possible

Personnel: Tino Tracanna (soprano and tenor saxophones); Paolino Dalla Porta (bass)