La volta del suono
Newtone Records FY 7020

North American musicians who are concerned about physical space when creating are, with several notable exceptions, simply interested in what the acoustics of a particular room bring to a sound field. Probably because of the greater number of older structures designed for particular auditory resonance that exist on the Continent however, European improvisers often try to "play" the building they're in when they create.

Case in point is this CD recorded in the sottoporticato of the ducal palace in Genoa, Italy by three saxophonists and a vocalist. Created around the same time as when French tubaist Michel Godard and a larger ensemble explored the acoustics of a castle in Puglia, Italy on CASTEL DEL MONTE, LA VOLTA DEL SUONO is appealing because it's actually more fundamental yet experimental at the same time

Using the echoes and reverberations that naturally resonate from the enormous structure of carved geometrical vaults and columns, Genoese saxophonist Claudio Capurro directs the musicians to shape the tones bounced back in such a way that they suggest a larger ensemble. Also, indulging in what seems to be an Italian predilection for adding a human vocal element to improvisation — saxophonists Gianni Gebbia and Stefano Maltese have used similar formations — Cristina Alioto's soprano voice is as prominent as the reedmen's.

Although the three saxophonists — Mauro Avanzini likely on alto and Claudio Lugo probably on tenor are the other two— often play at once, very rarely do they do so in unison. Most of the time theirs is a pointillistic investigation of extreme notes and tones, rather than melodies. So-called solos are at a minimum, with the main point seemingly getting the room's natural echo to bend to the will of a contemporary musician as it did, for less exalted reasons to that of earlier aristocrats.

The sonics that boomerang back, around and throughout are breathtaking to say the least and that part of the experiment appear to be successful. Alioto's contribution is less so if you're not an Italian speaker. Although her non verbal squeal and whispers are magnified as completely by the structure as any saxophone note, the point of her words are lost with no translation provided.

Now obviously, if your idea of proper sax section work begins and ends with Woody Herman's Four Brothers band or even the World Saxophone Quartet you may not be prepared for this session. Only in the middle of "Part VIII" do the horns begin riffing in a jazzy call and response section. Even that part is superseded by false fingering and key pops from the saxophones and sotto voce whispers from the vocalist.

Like his fellow Genoese Christopher Columbus, Capurro is confident enough in his natural inclinations to be unafraid of probing uncharted territories. But also like Columbus, who insisted he had discovered India when he landed in America, the explorations may be memorable, but lack closure.

—- Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. La volta del suono Part I 2. La volta del suono Part II 3. La volta del suono III 4. La volta del suono IV 5. La volta del suono V 6. La volta del suono VI 7. La volta del suono VII 8. La volta del suono VIII 9. La volta del suono IX

Personnel: Mauro Avanzini, Claudio Capurro, Claudio Lugo (saxophones); Cristina Alioto (voice)