Splasc(h) CDH 713.2

How do leaderless samurai in pre-Meiji Japan relate to contemporary Italian avant gardists? Quite logically, if you follow the thought process of veteran Milanese pianist Gaetano Liguori. True to their own code, musicians like the ones featured on this fine CD, play as they wish, where they wish and with whom they wish. Like Ronin, they succeed or fail according only to their own standards.

Liguori is someone like that, with a recording career that goes back to 1974 as a founder of one early Italian free jazz groups. A teacher and musicologist, he was also one of the first Italian jazz musicians to give concerts in the Far East. What's more, RONIN's front line is made up of musicians who count membership in the crème-de-la-crème Italian Instabile Orchestra along with their other activities.

Rarely does the entire sextet play together. Individual tracks named for the ronin's ideological preparations, as expressed in Miyamoto Musashi's Book of the Five Rings, find each soloist matched with Liguori's piano. Results were then intermixed with distinct ethnic music the keyboard man had recorded in Senegal, Thailand or Turkey.

"Mizu - L'Acqua - Water", for example, finds Actis Dato's heavyweight baritone saxophone blowing piping South Asian flutes out of the way as he does his aural equivalent of chewing the scenery and digesting it. More accommodating, Mayes, a Scottish-born Turin resident, uses the trombone-like tones of his French horn to complement than comment on the vocal and instrumental Turkish music wafting through the background on "Hi - Il Fuoco - Fire". Piano lines slow enter for a stirring duet, which resolves itself as an unique pan-Arabic string sound.

Most valuable player may be trumpeter Mazzon, though. Light and tractable as his tone may be on "Chi - La Terra - Earth", it turns insistent and hectoring on the title track. With the added fillip of Actis Dato's constant baritone chugging plus upfront bass and drums, he colors Liguori's swirling bustle of sounds leading to a gradual and outstanding tempo change at the end.

Obviously this group of ronins was able to affiliate for a higher purpose.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Ronin 2. Chi - La Terra - Earth 3. Mizu - L'Acqua - Water 4. Hi - Il Fuoco - Fire 5. Kaze - Il Vento - Wind 6. Ku - Il Vuoto - Emptiness

Personnel: Guido Mazzon (trumpet); Martin Mayes (French horn); Carlo Actis Dato (tenor and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet); Gaetano Liguori (piano); Luca Garlaschelli (bass) and Tony Boselli (drums)