November 28, 2000
MASSIMO DE MATTIA
Splasc(h) Records CDH 816.2
There's a thin line between self-realization and self-indulgence and consciously or not, Italian flautist Massimo De Mattia crosses it several times during the course of this disc. An eclectic veteran improviser who has worked with some of that country's top jazzers as well as dancers, poets, and visual artists like Massimo Poldelmengo, who blend sound sculptures, film and photography with music.
Obviously a prodigious technician, De Mattia just as obviously feels he can perform all sorts of music. While Italy may have been the site of the finest flower of the Renaissance, it doesn't follow that every Italian is a multi-talented Renaissance man. To put it another way, even as a flutist who has immense mouth control like De Mattia may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Let's start with the weakest tracks first. De Mattia's two duets with Hungarian guitarist Szabo sound, at best, like the sort of super light jazz Bud Shank and other West Coasters turned out by the gross in the 1950s; at the worst the tracks wouldn't be out of place at an afternoon wedding reception.
Solo selections fare a little better, but not by much. The title tune, for instance, appears to be related to ghostly, prototypical New Age noodling like Paul Horn's INSIDE THE GREAT PYRAMID. Technique, which make it appear as if De Mattia is playing two flutes at once, does enliven the second version of Eric Dolphy's "Gazzelloni". But both versions sound as if they have more in common with the classical musician Dolphy was honoring with the composition of the jazzman who wrote the tune. Plus Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" is more memorable for what it attempts than as a successful wind instrument vehicle.
Things pick up considerably when De Mattia has duo partners as skillful as he is though. On "La parte (o)scura" altos 1, 2 and 3, for instance, his speedy fluting and pianist Pacorig's bass rumbles, show two musicians interacting in a complex improvisation. Meanwhile the three versions of "Room" show how well live electronics can enhance a solo performance. Teardo's manipulating not only "creates" extra flutists, but also gives the live flautist the proper sort of background in front of which he can improvise.
All in all, though, De Mattia is done in by his eclecticism here. If the combined 12 minutes of flute and piano and flute and electronics improvisations were extended over the entire CD, this would have been a must-get session. Unfortunately, it's merely a missed opportunity.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Voodoo chile 2. Note* 3. Gazzelloni (portrait) 4. Room^ 5. Room^ 6. Room^ 7. Duoloque* 8. Metonymic (to Giacinto Scelsi) 9. La parte (o) scura alto 1+ 10. La parte (o) scura alto 2+ 11. La parte (o) scura alto 3+ 12. Gazzelloni (homage)
Personnel: Massimo De Mattia (flutes); Sàndor Szabo* (six and 16 string guitars); Mauro Teho Teardo^ (live electronics); Giorgio Pacorig + (piano)