Global Music and Circular Thought
Jazz'halo TS 012

Young Sicilian pianist Giorgio Occhipinti describes the sound on this CD as global music, but it certainly has little if anything in common with what most call World Music. Instead the suite he has written for this nonet reflects his version of global music: a mixture of opera buffa, Italian folk and marching songs, romantic pop, so-called classical music and a large parcel of jazz improvisation.

Nomenclature be damned, however. GLOBAL MUSIC is a stirring showpiece for the pianist's compositional skills that, in four lengthy compositions, utilize every one of his influences, flinging them together in a dense — and very palatable — mass. Separating the orchestral blow-outs are four miniature and airy dual-cello interludes, which serve the same purpose an amuse-gueule of sherbet does between courses in a hearty French meal: as an airy interlude to set you up for the substantial fare to follow.

Theatrical and splashy as only someone hailing from the birthplace of opera can be, Occhipinti's major compositions have a certain heft to them, and are decorated with the many orchestral colors he has available to him with nine plus instruments. The plus is Palermo-born clarinetist Maurizio Maiorana, whose tenor singing voice is used for little arias, both wordless and with Italian lyrics.

Whether you understand the language or not is unimportant, since the key to those songs is the vocal blend with the tunes and instrumentalists. And what sounds they produce. During the course of "Allegro Ibleo Con Ninna Nanna", for instance, the disc's showpiece at nearly 26 minutes, the tempo shifts from march to swing to free to jig and back again. Philharmonically-voiced string and horn passages follow a straightahead jazz motif with carefully accented snare and cymbal zaps and bop piano runs, Earlier passages move among raucous gutbucket trombone, quasi-Dixie high-note trumpeting and the clarinets' approximation of a tarantella. From time to time the dramatic Maiorana asserts himself, switching from a soaring operatic pitch to lyric reading that approximates a Virgilian Jacques Brel.

It does help, of course, to have some of the country's most accomplished musicians on board here. Trombonist Lauro Rossi, like Occhipinti and bass clarinetist Carlo Actis Dato a member of trumpeter Pino Minafra's all-star Sudori combo, can measure the bar lines in strict tempo with a proper sound as easily as he plays freely.

Reed madman Actis Dato, who is also known for his contributions to the Italian Instabile Orchestra and his own bands, is never at a loss for notes or ideas. Violaist Paolo Botti can put a folksy sheen on his tone on "Canone", then seemingly effortlessly soar over the massed ensemble as he does on "Danza Del Canto Supremo". One minute trumpeter Luca Calabrese, who first learned his trade in a wind banda, is making like an Italian Cat Anderson on "La Genesi Del Kaos", pushing higher and higher notes out of his horn. Shortly afterwards he's amplifying the Latin motif of "Canone" to such an extent that you next expect someone to yell "cha cha cha".

Despite its title, that tune, which is lively from beginning to end, comes across with a boogaloo beat following an introductory theme, that could be used on a TV cop show. While chaos may be created with blended horn section explosions and the many free passages — not to mention Siracusa-based drummer Francesco Branciamore's apocalyptic kettledrums on "La Genesi Del Kaos", some of the earlier compositions switch between parade rhythms and Kurt Weillian-style waltz time.

Occhipinti is no slouch as a pianist either. When he takes centre stage, he can easily create some flowing Herbie Hancock-like contemporary keyboarding. Elsewhere he caresses compositions with right-handed glissandos.

A number of impressive European and North American orchestral projects have been released recently. With his creative mixture of inspiration, swing, humor and high musical standards, the pianist's disc certainly deserves to take its place near the top.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Cellos n°2* 2. Allegro Ibleo Con Ninna Nanna 3. Cellos n°1* 4. Canone 5. Cellos n°3* 6. Danza Del Canto Supremo 7. Cellos n°4* 8. La Genesi Del Kaos

Personnel: Luca Calabrese (trumpet, flugelhorn); Lauro Rossi (trombone); Maurizio Maiorana (voice, clarinet); Carlo Actis Dato (bass clarinet); Giorgio Occhipinti (piano); Paolo Botti (viola); Tiziana Cavaleri, Vito Amatulli* (cellos); Giuseppe Guarrella (bass); Francesco Branciamore (drums, kettledrums)