Gianni Lenoci

Sextant
Ambiences Magnetiques AM 154 CD

Mixing modal, minimalist and avant-garde impulses, the pieces on this CD stem from teaching methodologies workshops Italian pianist Gianni Lenoci leads in his hometown of Monopoli. But there’s nothing fussy or academic about the date.

Taking jazzman Eric Dolphy’s buoyant intensity and composer Morton Feldman’s horizontal sound development as its contrasting boundries, the Lenoci sextet not only plays a composition by each man, but also original tunes that bound from one extremity to the other, sonically coloring in the often elusive middle distances.

Playing piano, electric piano, synthesizer and electronics, Lenoci – who has recorded with French bassist Joëlle Léandre – is especially noteworthy on “Sesante”, where his sprinting glissandi and flashing octaves simultaneoulsy reference legato fantasia and tremolo improvisation. Buoyed by the hocketing undulations of saxophonists Fabrizio Scarafile and Francesco Massaro, his keyboard note clusters still leave space for distorted guitar reverb from Adolfo La Volpe.

Louder and more boppish, “Punto” showcases Massaro’s swaggering baritone saxophone growls on top of organic keybaord comping, while “Rothko” flirts with electronics. Except for an occasiomal cymbal clap from Marcello Magliocchi and slurping chirps from the saxes, this piece is all Lenoci, who outputs broken chord cadenzas and cascading arpeggios that expose internal string slides and ring modulator- triggered gongs.

With bassist Francesco Angiuli on side to keep the band grounded during the more traditionally jazzy and electronic compositions, the composer/pianist confirms that fluent improvisations can arise from cerebral forethought as well as in-the-moment playing.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #3