December 23, 2002
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1150
Grafting another voice onto an established aggregation can either be a recipe for disaster or the spice needed to make the resulting concoction even taster. This CD of new collaborations between Swiss saxophonist Mathias Rissi and the duo of his countrymen pianist Guerino Mazzola and percussionist Heinz Geisser is unequivocally an example of the later.
Not that Mazzola and Geisser have been standoffish in the past. The two, who first began working together in 1994 and have concertized on their own in Korea, Japan and Mexico have recorded with such Americans as guitarist Scott Fields, violist Mat Maneri and saxophonist Rob Brown. Geisser was a member of the Collective 4tet with bassist William Parker, and both men played in a 16-piece big band under Rissis leadership.
But as the trio concept has slowly ripened over the course of several CDs, this band has developed the cohesion generic to another bass-less trio — Cecil Taylors 1960s combo with Sunny Murray and Jimmy Lyons. Still, Geisser is more restrained than Murray and Rissi closer to John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders on both of his horns. Mazzolas creations do seem close to Taylors — with a dash of McCoy Tyner — especially when he unleashes his full strength on the keyboard. But his asides and sporadic inside piano excursions owe more to intellectualism of contemporary classical music. Thats also not surprising for someone who pursued postdoctoral research at the universities of Paris and Rome and has published five books and over 70 papers in the fields of math, topology, brain-research and computer music
Lucky hes wearing his jazz/improv hat here, for this emotional music, well recorded in a Milan studio, doesnt appear to draw much on advanced mathematics, brain properties — and definitely not from computers. Instead the three musicians are as live as theyll ever be, playing off each others talents with the practical judgment of comrades who have internalized the others moves.
On the title — and longest — track, for instance, the saxophonists exertion in a steaming late-Coltrane mode is offset by the traffic circulation cymbal shimmies and wooden thumps of the percussionists kit. Hammering away in classic Energy Music fashion, Geisser accompanies Rissis whining double-tonguing, split tones and altissimo-register smears as the saxman goads the pianist into dense, swirling, note-thick retaliation. Tonally, Mazzolas chords are as dense as Tyners, though overall his ascending building blocks of sound reference Taylors 1973 and 1974 Montreux Festival solo triumphs. Considering Mazzola is 55, he very likely studied the disc, if he wasnt in attendance at those Swiss performances.
Hes not all bombs away however, as his two short solo features prove. (Thelonious) Monk-like and unruffled, the highest keys are caressed rather than pummeled and 19th century impressionism suggests itself as well. Peculiarly enough on Ionomar, their duo feature, Rissi and Geisser lean towards an outside Afro-Cuban sound, with the saxophonists heavy tones emphasizing the Caribbean side , Sonny Rollins, another possible influence, sometimes reveals, and the percussionists rim shots resembling those of a conga drum, turning him for a time into a Swiss Mongo Santamaria. This doesnt mean, though, that Rissis triple-tonguing, deep horn shakes and individual inflections vanish under an imaginary tropical sun.
With AQUA, the three improvisers have grown into one many limbed whole and in the process harvested exceptional trio sounds for all to enjoy.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Zuni 2. Verino ques 3. Agua 4. Quemaris 5. Ionomar 6. Loliseseinas 7. Kaligandaki
Personnel: Mathias Rissi (alto and tenor saxophones); Guerino Mazzola (piano); Heinz Geisser (percussion)