Splasc(h) CDH 796.2

A hopefully reversible backwards step for Alberto Tacchini, this CD seems to call into question all the impressive work the young Italian pianist has contributed to the projects he has recorded with master percussionist Tiziano Tononi.

While his 2000 duo CD with Tononi and his restrained accompaniment as part of the percussionist’s Nexus Orchestra could be faulted for excessive airy Impressionism, as shown some tracks here, that begins to resemble hard-core jazz when compared to the rest of the disc. Somehow, Tacchini and three other hitherto noteworthy Italian jazzers, have opted this time out to expend their energy on creating derivative, fusion-style sounds.

Though most of the time the almost overpowering beat stays closer to foot tapping then head banging, the reason for playing this way seems shadowy at best, especially with his supporting cast. Drummer U.T. Gandhi has worked with more experimental players like reedists Daniele D’Agaro and Mario Schiano. Bassist Giovanni Maier has backed up American alto man Tim Berne and been part of Nexus. Only Roberto Cecchetto, who on this CD plays guitars and electronics, had a tendency when in Nexus to overuse his effects pedal. But considering that Tacchini wrote all the tunes and plays piano, organ, synthesizer and electronics as well as grand piano, this stylistic farrago is more his doing than the plans of an unreconstructed rock-jazz plectrum-wielder.

That said, the most notable track is “Candle-Light”. With Maier contributing a uniform beat and Tacchini on piano pushing high frequency, acoustic chording, even Cecchetto appears to relax into some floating, moderated guitar licks. He may not be particularly original but at least he’s not offensive. For his part, when showcasing his flowing, arpeggio-rich light touch, the pianist finally sounds like someone who knows his bop as well as his rock. To end, the two lead strings play off one another’s lines, blending at certain points.

Contrast this with “Toys Room”, which is built on hiphop vamps from the organ, a harsh shuffle beat from the drummer and Maier sounding here and elsewhere as if he’s manipulating the electric bass. Using lots of treble and reverb, the guitarist could be playing licks on a Dixie Dregs session. The piece soon dissolves into such radio-friendly background sounds that you lose interest. The track even fades out. “Dreams”, awash in spraying electric piano spurts, is built around wacka-wacka guitar distortions that could fit on “Theme for Shaft”. Perhaps there’s a future in the Hollywood studios for Cecchetto.

Atmospheric, and nearly 10-minutes long, “The Old Museum” at first seems as if it’s going into new territory. But soon hollow slaps from the bass, ghostly wind sounds from the synthesizer and knob-twisting reverb from the guitar is replaced by a banging, heavy-footed beat from the drummer and an ear-wrenching, extended fuzz tone line from Cecchetto. With Tacchini’s electric piano throbbing like a sinus headache, the guitarist picks his way into full, guitar hero frenzy, producing faster, whinier, higher-pitched and less coherent licks as he goes on. Soon he’s piling chord upon chord and feddback is following feedback.

Nadir is reached with “Red Tribe”, which goes on for an excruciating nearly 16½ minutes. As Tacchini shows off all sides of his playing, the piece moves from internal keyboard string plucking to romantic, full force keyboard cadenzas reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi’s lightweight TV interaction with Peanuts’ Charlie Brown. Along the way, as the pianist reinforces his chording with splayed finger patterns and the guitarist ejaculates snapping bottleneck pressure, the listener may feel as if he has wondered into a ProgRock session circa 1971. Finally, as Maier advances a low, rhythmically steady, soul-jazz pulse, Cecchetto evidentially can’t control himself any longer. He uses his delay pedal to pulsate single-note fireworks across the surface of the tune.

Tacchini dedicates DROPS to his son Nicola, who from his picture looks to be around four years old. We can only hope that this disc isn’t a portend of the future. Surely it isn’t the pianist’s intention to make this sort of simplistic music, easily appreciated by the under six crowd from now on. Isn’t that a form of child abuse?

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Stars 2. Big Rush 3. Red Tribe 4. Velociraptor 5. Toys Room 6. The Old Museum 7. Candle-Light 8. Shadows 9. Dreams

Personnel: Roberto Cecchetto (guitars, electronics); Alberto Tacchini (piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, electronics); Giovanni Maier (bass); U.T. Gandhi (drums)