August 26, 2008
Fabrizio Puglisi/Giovanni Maier/Sebi Tramontana
One of the challenges facing improvised music in this century is discovering original arenas in which to express new ideas. Creation of non-traditional groupings is one of the better strategies, as these notable discs prove. Unlike the standard horn-plus rhythm make up, Moon Extermination matches trombone with acoustic bass and a vintage (circa 1970s) Arp Odyssey synthesizer. TRIUM on the other hand is lead by a drummer, but his confreres are two brass men.
Overall the brass-and-drums combination isn’t surprising since the participants – Italian drummer Francesco Branciamore, plus two French musicians: trumpeter and flugelhornist Jean Luc Cappozzo and tubaist Michel Godard, come from countries with histories of supporting military and community bands that use similar instrumentation. Cappozzo, in fact, spent his early years as part of open-air marching bands where he would have exposed to the tradition.
The players on the other CD are all Italians – trombonist Sebi Tramontana, bassist Giovanni Mayer and Fabrizio Puglisi on the Arp Odyssey. Here they combine familiar banda history with another: the organization of musicians’ self-help co-ops. The concert was organized under the auspices of Collecttivo Bassesfere in Bologna.
Instant compositions except for one tune written by the drummer, TRIUM’s 17 tracks were recorded over two days two days in a French studio by the trio. Ragusa-born Branciamore has already proven his mettle as a member of the December Thirty piano trio and his own Perfect Quartet. Cappozzo has worked with clarinetist Louis Sclavis, bassist Claude Tchamitchian and La Marmite Infernale big band among others. Tubaist Godard, who, interestingly enough, like Cappozzo was born near Belfort, France, has played in band as different as Sclavis’ and Italian reedist Gianluigi Trovesi’s, plus the Radio-France Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Ensemble Musique Vivante.
About as far away from a marching band as you can imagine this trio excels in assiduous interplay between variations of the four horns’ harmonies – Godard also plays serpent the tuba’s smaller, more ancient ancestor – and the drummer’s contrapuntal construction.
On trumpet Cappozzo usually sticks to bright, chromatic lines, though he’s equally adept at rolling out a series of emphasized triplets or creating verbalized parrot-like chattering. When that happens as on “Monday 5”, Godard’s snorting tuba ostinato and Branciamore’s blunt backbeat suggests the three are improvising their version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”. That is if you can imagine voice, guitar and electric bass in place of trumpet and tuba.
In contrast, clattering rim shots, snare ruffs and popping cymbal breaks mix with unmatched timbres from the other instruments on tunes such as “Monday 4”. On that one, for example, the trumpeter’s muted solo is redolent with Arabic inflections while the larger horn pumps out a jaunty, almost 18th Century gigue-like line.
More modern sounds get their due as well, as on “Monday 14” – obviously a productive day in the studio. On this track the three offer an example of restrained polyphony with door-knocking and snapping percussion rhythms, rubato trumpet twitters and a pedal point tuba line which elongates and solidifies legato. Meanwhile, the smaller brass instrument darts, slurs and soars around the others.
Taken andante, “Monday 13” the nearly 7½-minute concluding track has enough space for almost sonata-like sectioning. Moving from a broken-octave exposition that relies on Godard’s impressionistic puffs, this romanticism shrinks to a minimalist variation as Cappozzo expels overtones, and the tuba ostinato begins to resemble Bedlam mumbling. Counter rhythm that encompass stops, pops, rumbles and ruffs from the drummer – plus fortissimo cymbal resonations – then push the trumpeter into contributing a reed-like, almost woody tessitura. When linked with Godard’s pedal point, the blend constitutes a summation of the session as well as a proper finale.
Ranging over three extended tracks, the Puglisi-Maier-Tramontana trio obviously has more space and time for improvisation than the players on the other CD. Yet in the same spirit of equality they too avoid the soloist-and-backing accompaniment formula as well. The trombonist, has worked with everyone from French bassist Joëlle Léandre to Italian alto saxophonist Mario Schiano; the bassist’s affiliations have ranged from pianist Giorgio Pacorig to the Nexus Orchestra; and Puglisi, who has played in the Netherlands with such sound explorers as reedist Ab Baars and pianist Albert Van Veenendaal. More important each man has also been a member of the all-star Italian Instabile Orchestra. This shared history may account for some of the effortless transitions and recurring communication movements. But so does in-the-moment sonic responses to the others’ work.
Finessing unique textures from what was the first compact user-friendly studio synthesizer, Puglisi, frequently sets up scene-setting reverberating pulsations whose crackles and thunder reference natural as well as outer-space sounds. Using these polyphonic oscillations as a base, Tramontana jumps from steady, grace notes to verbalized plunger excavations, as the bassist varies his output from near-legit arco sweeps to warm and woody jazz plucks. This strategy is particularly satisfying on “Rumorearmonico” when the tune reaches an agitato and multiphonic crescendo. With the trombonist’s gut-bucket wah-wahs, Maier’s finger-style arpeggios, plus spinning and ramping synthesizer pulses, the strident sound field blends, finally fading into wiggling washes from Puglisi and sul tasto bull fiddle vibrations.
“Dinamico”, a shorter track, is given over to fascinating instrumental extensions. At different points Puglisi sounds as he’s pumping out the “Happy Wander” march or playing a video war game, while Tramontana investigates all parts of his axe, moving from lead pipe air blowing and open bell warbling to unvarying tailgate-styled murmurs. Reaching that space where certain blurry pulses could arise from either the ARP keyboard or the trombonist’s lip pressure, the pitchsliding eventually resolves as staccato oscillations from the synthesizer and vocalized bites, burbles and tongue-stops from Tramontana. Extended techniques are one thing, but what resembles the slurp of a draining bathtub can probably be attributed to the synthesizer rather than the trombone.
Meanwhile Maier’s steady walking preserves the human element, preventing cynosure by subtly directing both experimenters into straight line counterpoint. Call-and-response resolution includes aviary chirps from Puglisi, double-trucked frailing from Maier and throat clenching growls from Tramontana.
Complete within its own parameters, each CD distinguishes itself as an example of how to constitute an impressive trio date.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: TRIUM: 1. Trium 2. Monday 3 3. Monday 1 4. Monday 2 5. Monday 4 6. Monday 5 7. Trium II 8. Monday 7 9. Monday 8. Monday 7 9. Monday 8 10. Monday 9 11. Monday 10 12. Monday 11 13. Trium III 14. Monday 15. Tuesday 2. 16. Tuesday 3 17. Monday 13
Personnel: TRIUM: Jean Luc Cappozzo (trumpet and flugelhorn); Michel Godard (tuba and serpent) and Francesco Branciamore (drums)
Track Listing: Moon: 1. Rumorearmonico 2. Sintetico 3. Dinamico
Personnel: Moon: Sebi Tramontana (trombone); Fabrizio Puglisi (Arp Odyssey synthesizer) and Giovanni Maier (bass)