May 22, 2010
Dimitri Sillato Playground
El Gallo Rojo 314-26
Leo Records CD LR 546
Although his own sessions as leader aren’t that numerous, Modena-born saxophonist and clarinetist Achille Succi seems to be the go-to guy when adventurous Italian composers want to add professional zing to their projects. These two notable CDs, for instance – merely a sampling of Suicci’s many recording sessions – pinpoint his skills as he adapts to the widely differing ideas of two leaders.
Mainly self-taught, although he now teaches at the Conservatory of Ferrara and the Siena Jazz summer workshop, Succi is ironically put in the centre of neo-classical pieces by pianist/violinist Dimitri Sillato on Periferiche Sospese. Multi-instrumentalist Sillato had extensive formal training on both his instruments in Bologna and Parma conservatories. As a matter of fact there are episodes during the course of the eight originals here that Sillato’s playing appears to be listing towards the formalist piano style of Bill Evans or the even-more-restrained technique of so-called classical pianists. The other Playgrounders here are multi-instrumentalists as well. Alessandro Altarocca was originally a pianist, and on bull fiddle has backed everyone from drummer Keith Copeland to saxophonist Tino Tracanna. Meanwhile on this CD, Giancarlo Bianchetti plays both guitar and drums, although not simultaneously.
As different as Sun Ra is from Son House, Materiale Umano is made up of 13 instant compositions, where everyone with the exception of Succi – who adds shakuachi textures to his usual bass clarinet and alto saxophone lines here – utilizes some form of live electronics. Scoolptures is the brainchild of Nicola Negrini, a native of Alba, who plays metallophone and electronics as well as double bass. Negrini, who in the past has been involved in theatre pieces as well the likes of saxophonist Javier Girotto and pianist Rita Marcotulli, says the band concept comes from meditations on “faces, deaths, love, births, streets travel, psychiatry and philosophy”. Sound sculpture generation and sine wave expression on this CD come from Udine’s Antonio Della Marina; with Philippe Garcia contributing his talents on drums, voice and live electronics as well.
At points sounding as if it’s sonically illustrating an earlier Negrini-affiliated band, the Alien Army Collective, this “human material” encompasses many actions and textures that are irregular, disconnected, looped and pulsed – with intense reed burbles plus drum rolls and ruffs adding to discontinuity produced by electronic circuitry. Each composition includes the suffix “slice”. Does it mean that each is designed as a slice of life?
A track such as “Liverslice”, for instance begins with diffuse electronics buzzing discontinuously as if a switch is being turned on and off. Soon moderato bass clarinet lows are matched with ring-modulator signals overlaid on a military drum beat. Eventually Succi’s squeaking and vibrating reed bites identify the narrative as do steel-pan-like strokes and blurry electronic interfaces.
“Skinslice” on the other hand has an exposition that is almost harmonious, with sweet clarinet trills, bell-like pings and drum rolls that are only gradually enveloped by ganulized pitches. As the wave-form undercurrent buzzes and blurs with distant whooshes and squealing oscillations, harsh clarinet split tones and tongue flutters not only accelerate but also become densely concrete as well. Soon high-pitched flattement and feline yowls join body-tube yelps and clouds of interlocking drones and flanges. Crossing and re-crossing one another from multiple outputs, the timbres finally connect in an echoing finale. Elsewhere there’s Succi’s whiny and otherworldly shakuachi puffing matched with equivalent dragging string resonation; as well as sections when upwards alto saxophone slurs, cries and tongue flutters exacerbate crashing cymbal abrasions in the middle of a piece.
Most characteristic of Scoolptures’ strategy however may be the resolution into percussive oil-drum-like strokes, steady sine-waves pulsations and grainy, emphasized double-tonguing on “Chunkslice”. This follows a nearly soundless exposition and climaxes with patched reflections of the initial super-loud alto saxophone squeals which balance the harsh repetitive sine-wave loops.
Electric-affiliated compositional forays and formulations are absent from Periferiche Sospese which comes across as contemporary chamber improv with an edge. That is if the proper translation of the title is “peripheral suspension”. These aren’t teeth-jarring sounds however. It appears that the permutations available with three of four players double, leads to strategies that are legato more often then staccato. “Lines for Pigs” for instance, has a title rowdier than the performance. Mostly ambulatory, it follows a formula of low-frequency piano riffs matched contrapuntally with reed glissandi and cascading guitar licks. When Sillato eventually asserts himself with key ringing and portamento patterning, he’s joined by scraped vibrating surfaces, down-stroking guitar twangs and a slinky line from the bull fiddle. But these soon give way to the reedist’s snorting undertones. A lyrical saxophone obbligato is mated with airy finger-style guitar licks elsewhere, whereas harmonically popping strings contrasts with slide-whistle like reed peeps on another track.
Perhaps “Hidden Doors” is closest to Sillato’s heart however, since his impressionistic patterning and fulsome note clusters root in Bill Evans-like-territory as Bianchetti on drums plays familiar jazz licks and Succi’s interlude is melodiously trilling.
What then can be made of Masnada (Omaggio a John Zorn)? Despite the purposeful (?) misspelling of Masada, this jolly finale is firmly in Zorn’s avant-klezmer style. It begins with a freylah-like head pumped out by fiddle and guitar, and its resolution involves both plinking string strokes, drags and pops from the drums and a liquid glissando from Succi. The reedist may be flutter-tonguing in a classically accepted way, but the melody itself isn’t too far from the ghetto – which come to think of it is an Italian concept.
Both these CDs confirm that Succi is a musician of many identities and styles, in-demand to help expose the creativity of his contemporaries. Preference for one over the other depends on listeners’ comfort level with experimentation and electricity.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Periferiche: 1. Gastone 2. Lines for Pigs 3. A Ora Do Diabo 4. Hidden Doors 5. Continuo 6. Il Silenzio Che Viene alla Fine 7. Fermorestando 8. Masnada (Omaggio a John Zorn)
Personnel: Periferiche: Achille Succi (clarinet and bass clarinet); Dimitri Sillato (piano and violin); Alessandro Altarocca (bass) and Giancarlo Bianchetti (guitar and drums)
Track Listing: Materiale: 1. Brainslice 2. Bellyslice 3. Tactslice 4. Chunkslice 5. Liverslice 6. Lipslice 7. Breathslice 8. Hipslice 9. Lungslice 10. Nerveslice 11. Lostslice 12. Tumslice 13. Skinslice
Personnel: Materiale: Achille Succi (bass clarinet, alto saxophone and shakuachi); Nicola Negrini (bass, metallophone and live electronics) Philippe Garcia (drums, voice and live electronics) and Antonio Della Marina (sine waves and live electronics)