JOE GIARDULLO 4TET

Now Is
Drimala DR-03-347-02

ALBERTO PINTON/FREDRIK NORDSTRÖM
Dog Out
Moserobie MMPCD 013

Splitting combo leadership between a couple of sax players has been a jazz natural ever since the days of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt in the late 1940s. With another reedman on side, not only is there a second horn to add polyphonic harmonic and tonal emphasis to a session, but dividing up the front line between two woodwind players seems to free the reed soloist even more than if his running buddy was playing a different instrument.

To prove this, both Italian-born, Stockholm-based sonorous reed specialist Alberto Pinton and soprano saxophonist Joe Giardullo from upstate New York have never sounded so relaxed as on they do on their respective CDs here. Naturally it helps that Giardullo’s front-line comrade-in-arms is veteran Joe McPhee, who is equally proficient on reeds and brass. Pinton’s partner is Fredrik Nordström, a Swedish inside-outside alto and tenor saxophonist, who in his more mainstream offerings almost gives the Young Lions a good name. More experimental here, his reed tones blend well with the subterranean earth shakers from Pinton’s baritone and C-melody saxophones and clarinet.

Linking the two sessions as well is the identical setup of both quartets. Two reeds, bass and drums bring to mind Ornette Coleman’s group with Dewey Redman, while McPhee’s excursions on pocket trumpet — a dead giveaway — and flugelhorn, references Coleman’s classic quartet with Don Cherry. Style throughout is definitely Freebop and its derivatives, or what should be regarded as modern mainstream 45 years after Ornette’s initial recording.

More closely linked to that style, and its even more traditional precursor Hard Bop, Pinton, Nordström and company have enough familiarity with these and other aspects of modernity to keep the 11 tracks on the CD percolating at a steady boil. Each tune is short enough so that it doesn’t wear out its welcome. The bari man has created similar programs on his own band’s CDs featuring American trumpeter Kyle Gregory and Italian drummer Roberto Dani. Nordström has record with other Scandinavians like bassist Palle Danielsson and trumpeter Magnus Broo. Bassist Mattias Welin has played with Broo, Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and local twin-neck guitarist Mattias Windemo who also employed drummer Jon Fält, who is featured here.

Interesting enough, although the composer credits are split between the two leaders, it’s Welin’s sluicing, deep-toned bass work that set up many of the tunes. When he does get a solo, as on the title tune, his work is solid, powerful, but not particularly adventurous. Charlie Haden he’s not. Yet his consistent steadfastness here, linked with colorful bounces from drummer, allows the tenor man enough freedom to get into high screech mode and Pinton to double tongue on what sounds like C-melody.

On baritone, as on “TT Rider” a shifting, pseudo-blues, Pinton honks out slurry, staccato timbres like Ur-bopper Leo Parker or Stitt. Still the snaky lines of Nordström, the tune’s composer, soon ratchet up to Albert Ayler-like multiphonics not Ammons-like smoothness. Mellowness is reserved for pieces like “Piece of Change”, featuring Pinton’s light, coloratura clarinet lines that are effectively doubled by Nordström’s alto and advanced by Fält’s irregular percussion accents. This tune could be heard as close cousin to West Coast experimental jazz of the mid-1950s as played by reedman Jimmy Giuffre.

The influence of Eric Dolphy, another Californian, features in Nordström’s playing, especially on alto. This is most apparent on “The Tiny Mite”, where the Dolphyisms even seems to affect Pinton’s baritone runs. Elsewhere the riffing teamwork brings to mind Gerry Mulligan’s band with Zoot Sims, though Pinton is more of his own man than a Jeru follower. His echoing, tart-toned undulations find their outlet in shrilling high notes as well as the more familiar pedal point rhino-like snorts.

On the other session, McPhee’s many instruments means that the Giardullo Four have more colors with which to play, though the leader himself sticks to Steve Lacy-influenced soprano saxophone. The saxman, who has played in Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening Band as well as many times with McPhee, is one of those whose recording career hasn’t kept up with his history. He’s certainly old enough to remember Lacy’s quartet LPs with Cherry in the early 1960s.

Indeed, his and McPhee’s brass work on “Now Is”, the first and longest tune could almost fit onto one of those discs. Inchoate trills and squeals intersect, the two ascend the scales together, then plunge south, as McPhee’s brassy flashes and Giardullo’s honklets define the tune. However bassist Mike Bisio and percussionist Tani Tabbal make up a more sophisticated rhythm section than Lacy and Cherry would have had in 1960.

West Coaster Bisio, whose associations include work with local heroes trumpeter Rob Blakeslee and violinist Eyvind Kang, not only creates pizzicato thwacks behind the soloists, but can just as easily spin out mid-range, cello-like arco figures. Tabbal, who has worked with saxists Roscoe Mitchell and James Carter, not only shows off his press rolls and time-keeping, but off-kilter, mellifluous echoing bounces from the djembe or hourglass shaped West African drum.

“O.A.O.L”, a trio outing for Giardullo, Bisio and Tabbal is introduce by a melancholy bass line with a “Played Twice” inference, barely there brushwork from the drummer and a smoothly accented legato tone from the saxman. Slowly undulating up and down the bridge, Bisio picks carefully selected notes and double stops, linking with Giardullo in such a way that the endproduct sounds like Haden’s duets with Coleman. Not to be outdone, “Close” is a McPhee-Tabbal duet with the later percussively hand drumming and the former producing muted chromatic grace notes.

Other times, triple-tongued trumpet tones and whispery, airy soprano sax trills meet buzzy, rubato fingering. Or with both front liners on sopranos the result resembles two chirping squirrels chasing themselves around the tree that is the darkening and modulated bass line. Tabbal extending the vibrations with wire brushes on cymbals and what sounds like marbles being rolled on drum tops, getting the reedists to breath bent tones that are more dissonant than atonal.

This session can likely only be accessed on the Internet at www.drimala.com, while DOG OUT’s Swedish CD won’t exactly be at your local Wal-Mart either. But both are worth seeking out to hear memorable reed work.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Now: 1. Now Is 2. Spin 3. Conference 4. SCINT 5. O.A.O.L. 6. Spring Theory 7. Close

Personnel: Now: Joe McPhee [except 2 & 5] (pocket trumpet, flugelhorn, soprano saxophone); Joe Giardullo [except 7](soprano saxophone); Mike Bisio [except 8](bass); Tani Tabbal (drums and djembe)

Track Listing: Dog: 1. Cold Talk 2. Dog’s Right 3. The Group 4. Piece of Change 5. The Tiny Mite 6. The Freezer 7. Numerology 8. Even Sven 9. TT Rider 10. For Us Three 11. Wonderland Ballroom

Personnel: Dog: Fredrik Nordström (alto and tenor saxophones); Alberto Pinton (baritone and C-melody saxophones, clarinet); Mattias Welin (bass); Jon Fält (drums)