Alberto Braida/Lisle Ellis/Fabrizio Spera

di terra
Nu Bop Records 2

A moving force in first the Vancouver, then the Bay area, and now the New York advanced music scene, bassist Lisle Ellis hooks up with two sophisticated Italian players on this hard-hitting CD. In the process he confirms that first-class improvising knows no boundaries.

A full collaboration, following a short tour, di terra’s 12 tracks give equal prominence to each participant, though by temperament and attack pianist Alberto Braida stands out. Someone who has worked with German bassist Peter Kowald, the Lodi-based keyboardist voices dramatically, whether he’s unspooling flashing double-time syncopation or highlighting kinetic cadences. With pronounced glissandi and sprinkles of discordant tones, his approach is thoroughly individual, yet favorably recalls 1950s pianist Herbie Nichols’ hair-trigger rhythmic sense.

Ellis, who partnered pianist Paul Plimley for years revels in this context. Opting for dynamic interplay, his fluid and spacey asides glide effortlessly among Braida’s off-centre octave runs, unexpected hocketing spills and swirls. Exposing tremolo arco tones or rappelling up and down the strings, Ellis also creates timbres that resemble bass clarinet tones.

Ellis’ ostinato ground bass gives drummer Fabrizio Spera his freedom as well. Rasping cymbals, popping snares and rumbling his bass drums, the percussionist, who work in a trio with German saxophonist Wolfgang Fuchs, judiciously outlays ruffs, flams and paradiddles to scene set for Braida’s bass clef rummaging or organic layering.

Whether the compositions are crepuscule-tinged nocturnes or brisk, kinetic romps, the CD makes an excellent case for Italian-Canadian cooperation.

— Ken Waxman

— For CODA Issue 330