DANIELE D’AGARO/ERNST GLERUM/HAN BENNINK

Strandjutters
HatOLOGY 590

Geometric as well as musical, STRANJUTTERS succeeds because its structure depends on each of the players involved intersecting like the lines that make up an isosceles triangle. Italian reedman Daniele D’Agaro may be the main figure and contribute six of his own compositions here, but his clarinet and tenor saxophone work is outstanding because it’s framed in the accompanying talents of the Dutch rhythm section.

Why is there such sympathy between the Udine-residing reedist, bassist Ernst Glerum and drummer Han Bennink? Simple, D’Agaro lived in Amsterdam, for more than a dozen years. Some of the bands he played in during that time included Glerum and Bennink — mainstays of the scene as well as members of the ICP Orchestra.

Like many Europeans, D’Agaro isn’t limited to what is currently fashionable or popular in jazz. During the course of the CD’s nine tracks there are references to bop, and South African kwela, plus — especially when it comes to his hearty sax tone which harkens back to Don Byas and Paul Gonsalves — the big band era.

No revivalist however, the reedman takes into account the multiphonic advances of post-Coltrane saxists and elsewhere sputters out a freebopy clarinet lines that take the advances of Tony Scott further without reaching atonality. This is most noticeable on his own “The Prisoner” and “Sempre Libero”.

On the former, his shrill, slurred licks bounce all over the piece, while Bennink supplies a rolling cymbal beat and tom tom rat-tat-tats, while Glerum slices away on the strings with his bow. Turning to multi-noted split tones and swinging multiphonics, D’Agaro’s solo introduces a steady, almost slap-bass solo from the bull fiddler and rim shots plus bass drum pedal pressure from the drummer.

On the later tune, the reedist’s fluttering vibrato is positively pre-bop and before the percussionist dips into his trick bag for some near Native Indian beats, D’Agaro’s clarinet tone goes from cavernous chalumeau to airy coloratura and back again. Meanwhile Glerum walking rhythms match Bennink’s clip clops. On their own and in unison on “En Plein Air” the bassist and clarinetist produce a liquid line that appears to be through composed.

Playing tenor, D’Agaro’s versatility is most impressive on two standards, Robinson and Hill’s “Old Folks”, and Mercer Ellington’s “The Girl in my Dreams Tries to Look like You”, whose sentiments if not melody line come from the younger Ellington’s father. On the second, over a walking bass line from Glerum and a gentle shuffle from Bennink, D’Agaro moves from spinning out bar lines with a smooth ferocity to breaking up his solo into emphasized sound shards, as Sonny Rollins did in the 1950s when disintegrating a standard’s sentimentality. Until the reedist exits, reprising variations on the theme, Bennink exhibits cymbal vibrations and Kenny Clarke-like bomb dropping and the bassist showcases an easy lope.

“Old Folks” on the other hand starts off with an a cappella tenor trill and finger vibrations leading to a series of cadenzas that introduce the main theme as well as the bass and drums. Employing a throaty masculine sound, D’Agaro soon turns to flutter-tongued, higher pitched-squeaks, suggesting the direct link between Byas and Gonsalves on one hand, and Rollins and Trane on the other. A penultimate whinnying chorus presages an ending that’s smooth as satin.

More experimental, the title track finds the reedman pulling metallic, foghorn-like sounds from deep within his horn’s body tube, as Glerum vibrates ponticello timbres that offset the sax line. Before long D’Agaro turns to wider, more mellow sound and the bassist chimes out variations of his lead in a more comfortable mid-range.

Pythagoras certainly couldn’t have known in 500 B.C. that more than 2,400 years later three European musicians would use his theories of balance to create such a satisfying theorem. But, luckily, you can enjoy it without knowing the first thing about higher math.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Divi-divi 2. Old Folks 3. En Plein Air 4. I Wish You Sunshine 5. The Prisoner 6. Talm 7. Sempre Libero 8. Strandjutters 9. The Girl in my Dreams Tries to Look like You

Personnel: Daniele D’Agaro (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Ernst Glerum (bass); Han Bennink (drums and percussion)