Aghe Clope Ensemble

Improvisations 1- 4
Setola Di Maiale SM NO #

Gianni Gebbia/Stefano Giust/Xabier Iriondo

L’Edera, Il Colle, E La Nebbia

Setola Di Maiale SM 1440

With the proliferation of mass communication devices – specifically but not exclusively the Internet and its ancillary cousins – improvisers who in the past would be experimenting in isolation now find their advances affected by far-away players with similar ideas.

Partially because of this information flow, a network of non-mainstream collaborative groups has developed and thrived. While it’s the nature of modernity that major centres such as Berlin, New York, London, Toronto or Paris still attract the majority of committed improvisers, healthy scenes are visible just about everywhere. Most deserve more exposure.

One notable, but relatively unknown, scene is centred in the northern Italian city of Bologna and nearby population centres. Clustered around the performance space provided by the Ivan Illich School of Music, improvisers of all backgrounds – from jazz, notated music, noise and rock – can exchange ideas, play together and sometimes even tour their music elsewhere. These discs on the DIY Setola Di Maiale label showcase two notable instances.

Anchored by Swiss-born drummer Stefano Giust, who lives in Pordenone – and has played with everyone from British bassoonist Mick Beck to Italian reedist Carlo Actis Dato – Improvisation 1-4 features a septet of players doing exactly what the title implies. They range from advanced jazz improvisers such as pianist Giorgio Pacorig, tenor saxophonist Gianluca Varone and guitarist Chris Iemulo, who have worked separately with established players such as Italian drummer Zeno De Rossi, German guitarist Olaf Rupp and American cellist Tristan Honsinger; to others such as saxophonist/flautist Paolo Pascolo and laptoppist Andrea Gulli, both part of Res_et, an experimental electronica ensemble.

More focused – at least to the extent that the seven tracks have individual titles – L’Edera, Il Colle, E La Nebbia is a rare touring excursion for Giust, joined by Palermo-based alto saxophonist Gianni Gebbia, one of the most traveled Sicilian improviser and Milan’s sound manipulator/guitarist Xabier Iriondo, whose roots come from indie rock. Belgian trumpeter Bart Maris, who directs the Flat Earth Society among other aggregations, joins the trio on one track.

Before that happens, L’Edera, Il Colle, E La Nebbia, like its title, balances the contributions of the three main players. “Camminando Guardo” and “Fosse Fluido Farlo” for instance, which follow one another, evolve from what initially could be variations on a standard theme to an interlude where the saxophonist begins parodying the lyrical line with tongue slapping. Iriondo distends the timbres still further by feeding irregular whooshes, blurry staccato eruptions and garbled vibrations into the mix via his electronic equipment. Gebbia responds with tongue flutters and slaps as Giust adroitly vibrates cymbals, while simultaneously applying enough lopsided pressure to the drum set to suggest the sound of tuned garbage-can lids. Without differentiating which gradually accelerating pulses are being patched in from which player’s crackle box, the electronic interface darkens when reed bites and drum top paradiddles are added.

Slinking and skidding, antipodal timbres ricochet, shudder and squeal throughout many other tracks. Often present are fluttering tongue smears, irregular rim shots and drum sticks roughly dragged along cymbal tops, plus the distorted and oscillated textures available when the tonal centre is shifted. Also audible is the faint hint of a voice from a radio broadcast on one track and some distracted pings from Rondo’s instrument arsenal elsewhere. Yet the wave-enhanced contrapuntal tones still skirt the inchoate, especially when Gebbia’s distancing twittering and reed bites introduce enough of a narrative to join with Giust’s press rolls, rebounds and multi-directional strokes.

Maris’ fluttering grace notes and plunger tones initially connect with Gebbia’s mid-range honks to create shrilling call-and-response as the drum set clatters and pumps. When Iriondo’s pedal-point waves form themselves into textures as percussive as those produced by the drummer, the four-way improv climaxes

A variant of this layered interaction is inflated still further by the Aghe Clope Ensemble with seven individual voices making their presences felt. That means the polyphonic disconnect between lyrical flute puffs, piano comping and strummed guitar sequences are made more obvious with discursive fluttering and biting from Varone’s tenor saxophone, clanking and hocketing synthesizer runs, plus the friction generated from Giust’s low-pitched flams, rebounds and bass drum whumping. The creation is only resolved when the collective suddenly stops playing, rather than with tonal concordance.

Planning oversight is especially apparent during the final improvisation which zigzags among tremolo vibrations, blurry oscillations and abrasive, contact-mike amplified scrapes and rubs. Transverse, reedy breaths from the horns, ruffs and drags pressed against unyielding material and guitar twangs are audible all through the wind-tunnel-like blur, and abetted by pulsating signal-processed vamps from the synthesizer plus Varone’s unexpected introduction of video-game sounds. Eventually the miasma dissipates as dissonant guitar pulses, split-tone over-blowing from the saxophones plus drum rolls and pops come to the forefront. The piece concludes with a sharp, clean reed bite from Pascolo’s alto saxophone.

Highly accomplished, unabashed free music, the Italians players on both discs can hold their own in any situations. What’s needed now is more non-local exposure for most of them.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Improvisations: 1. Improvisation 1+ 2. Improvisation 2 3. Improvisation 3* 4. Improvisation 4

Personnel: Improvisations: Paolo Pascolo (alto saxophone and flute); Gianluca Varone (tenor saxophone and games); Giorgio Pacorig (piano and synthesizer*); Chris Iemulo (semi-acoustic guitar); Nicola Guazzaloca (synthesizer and piano+); Stefano Giust (drums, cymbal and objects) and Andrea Gulli (laptop and electronics)

Track Listing: L’Edera: 1. Cose Urbane 2. Parta Della Bestie 3. Uomo Translucido 4. Camminando Guardo 5. Fosse Fluido Farlo 6. Giorni Notturni 7. Tra Sassi E Questo^

Personnel: L’Edera: Bart Maris (trumpet)^; Gianni Gebbia (alto saxophone, flute and crackle box); Stefano Giust (drums, cymbal and crackle box) and Xabier Iriondo (Mahai metak, electronics and crackle box)