GIANLUIGI TROVESI OTTETTO

Fugace
ECM 1827

GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA
Globe Unity 2002
Intakt CD 086

One potential horror comedians are always joking about is a world where the transportation schedules would be set by the Italians and the restaurants run by the British and Germans.

As humorous as this may sound as a situation, these CDs by mid-sized (eight- and nine-piece) bands shows that remarkable sounds can still result if countrymen act antithetically to their clichéd national characteristics.

FUGACE finds eight legendarily anarchistic Italians settling down for 16 short, arranged improvisations that touch on a variety of genres. Conversely, GLOBE UNITY 2002 features nine supposedly restrained Britons and Germans creating almost 74 minutes of some of the most cacophonous hullabaloo since John Coltrane and 10 other improvisers recorded ASCENSION in 1965.

As a matter of fact, Globe Unity, (the band) has always been in the tradition of all-out passionate expression that characterized 1960s aggregations like the Jazz Composers Orchestra, with the added fillip of being international. Over the years since the band’s first LP in 1966, membership has swollen to a high of 19, with American, Italian, Dutch and Polish musicians included, until it officially disbanded in 1986.

This one-time, live concert reunion 15 years later finds most of the longtime Globers on hand and confirms that the spirit and excitement the band engendered in its lifetime still exists. As well, 30 years on, a serene quantity has crept into some of the playing.

Leader Alexander von Schlippenbach, for instance, may begin the proceedings with intense, emotional, Romantic arpeggios, but during the course of the one long piece here he’ll relax into almost conventional jazz club comping and fills. Then when it comes time for his extended solo, his playing seems more bop-like and connected than the style of his first influence, Thelonious Monk. He uses careful voicing and portamento to glide across the keyboard. Building up tension in the Free Jazz sense with serpentine chords and echoing vibrations, his swiftness can resemble that of a player piano. Yet his unaccompanied coda is near pastoral, well modulated and definitely two-handed.

Trumpeter and, flugelhornist Manfred Schoof, who started off as a German version of a so-called Progressive jazzman, reverts to form in his solo spots. At one point he reveals long-lined patterned and focused grace notes that evolve to note-perfect brassy triplets, at another builds up mellow flugelhorn filigree, which when combined with the backing orchestral figures recall MILES AHEAD.

Others have intensified the way they first played 30 years ago. Evan Parker offers a five-minute plus exhibition of louder and softer circular breathing from his soprano sax, that appears to have an unmistakable bagpipe echo. Meantime fellow Briton, trombonist Paul Rutherford, growls and mumbles and rants within his trombone bell, with his snorts and Bronx cheers finally calling forth dampening metallic rim shot action and cymbal crashes from the dual percussionists. His direct musical descendent, German trombonist Johannes Bauer, also exhibits some double-tongued slurs backed with only piano accompaniment.

Dissonance, in all its ear-wrenching glory still inhabits the playing of the two remaining horn men though: Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute and Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone, tarogato and clarinet. One reedist — though likely not Parker — ejaculates some split-tone altissimo squeaks near the beginning of the extended piece, the likes of which haven’t been heard since the heyday of Giuseppi Logan. Much later, peeping tarogato timbres meet up with woody bass clarinet tones, arching from dog-whistle to bird trilling territory.

Then there’s a point just past midway where the “Ascension”-style total band hubbub slackens to expose a protracted series of screeches and multiphonic blasts from the tenormen. The yells and applause from the audience makes it appear that for it, this was the highpoint equivalent of Paul Gonsalves’ protracted solo on Duke Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blues” at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.

As all this is going on, the proper tempo for clangorous explosions and feather light interludes is provided by the Pauline duo on percussion — England’s Paul Lytton and Germany’s Paul Lovens.

Trovesi’s Ottetto features two drummers as well, but that’s about the only symmetry between the two sessions. Old enough — he was born in 1944 near Bergamo — to be part of the Globe Unity generation, multi-reedist Trovesi mixed his jazz with studio work earlier in his career. Part of the first generation of Southern European musicians to assert themselves internationally, Trovesi is known for his folklore-tinged work with trumpeter Pino Minafra, and membership in the all-star Italian Instabile Orchestra, which also includes ex-Globe Unity trumpeter Enrico Rava.

Like his other octet sessions though, FUGACE resides in a space of its own, where traditional Italian operatic drama coexists with improvisation, and where the references include veteran local comic Totò as well as Louis Armstrong. Thus on the three-part “Totò nei Caraibi”, as the pizzicato plucking of the three string players suggests a cartoon cat sneaking across the horizon, other sounds form the band reference a funeral march and echo calypsos.

In the same way, “Ramble” begins with a note-perfect Dixieland emulation with the drummers exercising their kits with ratamacues and a clip-clop rhythm like duple Baby Dodds, as Trovesi on clarinet makes like Baby’s older brother — and Armstrong associate — Johnny. But trumpeter Massimo Greco reaches for augmented notes too modern for Satchmo, the clarinet is soon trilling in a modernistic folk style reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre, and you’d never hear Marco Remondini’s arco cello slices anywhere in Trad Jazz. Blasts from trombonist Beppe Caruso, who leads his own fine brass band, form a countermelody that doubles and triples the tempo until the end.

In contrast to the Globe Unity veterans, the reedist’s is a younger band, made up in the main of musicians who have played with him for about a decade. With Remondini and percussionist Fluvio Maras adding electronics to the mix the Trovesi Eight proffers some unique textures, including a series of linking interludes that sound as if they were created on an electrified harpsichord that snuck in from a Yardbirds session. Thus while Trovesi may sometimes echo Benny Goodman and the unison string section get a bit overwrought in the 1,001 strings tradition, plenty of other slants arise as well.

“Blues and West” for instance, starts off with enough reverb from the electronica and electric bass slaps plus monochromic drumming to make it sound like a rock band has invaded the studio. In between riffing horns, Trovesi on alto creates some cosmic bop-inflected squeals and Greco plays a soaring, slurred trumpet line. “Canto di lavoro” goes in the opposite direction. It starts off with an Armstrong-like trumpet cadenza, introduces chalumeau clarinet trills and finishes with a sound that ping-pongs from outer-space whistles from the electronics, and someone, somehow — perhaps the top strings of the electric bass — producing a quivering Jimi Hendrix-like electric guitar distortion.

Massed horn riffs often appear to be half banda and half James Brown’s horn section, Trovesi’s split tone can often take on a distinctive Arabic inflection and the dual backbeat, if from hand drums, can be as much Savannah as Sardinia.

Improvised music has become such an all-encompassing category that a group can perform in a variety of ways to produce outstanding music, despite national clichés. Globe Unity and the Ottetto demonstrate two excellent versions of these methods.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fugace: 1. As strange as a ballad 2. Sogno d’Orfeo African Triptych: 3. Wide Lake 4. Scarlet Dunes 5. Western Dream 6. Canto di lavoro 7. Clumsy dancing of the fat bird 8. Siparietto I 9. Blues and West 10. Siparietto II 11. Il Domatore 12. Ramble 13. Siparietto III 14. Fugace 15. Siparietto IV 16. Totò nei Caraibi

Personnel: Fugace: Massimo Greco (trumpet, electronics); Beppe Caruso (trombone); Gianluigi Trovesi (alto saxophone, piccolo, alto clarinets); Marco Remondini (cello, electronic); Roberto Bonati (bass); Marco Micheli (bass, electric bass); Fluvio Maras (percussion, electronics); Vittorio Marinoni (drums)

Track Listing: Globe: 1. Globe Unity 2002

Personnel: Globe: Manfred Schoof (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paul Rutherford and Johannes Bauer (trombones); Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (alto saxophone, clarinet, flute); Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, tarogato, clarinet); Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones); Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano); Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton (drums)