Meloni/Orrù/Oxley

Improvised Pieces for Trio
Big Round Records BR 8904

Sebastiano Meloni/Nicola Cossu/Roberto Dani

Dialogues

SLAM CD 523

Unheralded overseas, but respected by his peers, Sebastiano Meloni is an avocational pianist based in Cagliari, Italy, whose job as a secondary school teacher gives him the freedom to pursue his own gigs as an improviser. Certainly the 26 performances on these two discs show an original stylist who deserves more playing exposure and less time spent as a teacher of Italian, History and Geography.

A conservatory graduate with a degree in Jazz, Meloni ranges through these self-composed or group improvisations with skill and maturity, creating stylistically self-sufficient lines while cunningly dialoguing with the two bassists and drummers. Both rhythm teams are notable as well. On Improvised Pieces he’s backed by veteran British drummer Tony Oxley, whose playing partners have ranged from pianist Cecil Taylor to guitarist Derek Bailey. Another Cagliari resident, and a music teacher as well, versatile bassist Adriano Orrù, has recorded with trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini. While Nicola Cossu on Dialogues is a bassist who often works with Meloni; drummer Roberto Dani is one of Italy’s busiest, having recorded with pianist Umberto Petrin and saxophonist Alberto Pinton, to name two.

Focused around the forms, timbres and registers they were going to explore beforehand, the set with Orrù and Oxley recorded in Germany, paradoxically appears less restrained than the one captured in Meloni’s hometown almost exactly a year later. Moving from concentrated sound blocks to stop time, Meloni’s contributions encompass high-frequency chording and methodical cadenza building as well as shaded linearism. If anything, contrasting dynamics are present more often than showy glissandi or any connected phrasing. Economical, single tone explorations are the order of the day.

Meanwhile Oxley clip-clops and clatters, frequently expose wood block pops or cymbal scratches while Orrù’s contributions includes wide-space drones and thumping resounding. Curiously, Dani’s and Cossu’s responses are just as concentrated on the other CD, as when the drummer accompanies the pianist’s long lines on “Waking Up” with a double- gaited martial beat; or when the bassist’s arpeggiated bass line on “A Quiet Place”, makes that tune thorny as well as impressionistic.

Dialoguing is on show throughout, whether the heads are staccato and andante or more languid. Single-minded, the majority of Meloni’s solos appear to be pieced together from single tones. Most characteristic are “In the Night” and the title tune. On the former the pianist uses pedal pressure to emphasize lower-pitched notes and uncharacteristic forearm smashes on the keyboard. Meanwhile Dani’s triangle ringing plus irregularly paced triplets and Cossu’s bass-line pumps keep the narrative unfussy. Interchange on the title track is typified when Meloni turns his key exploration up-tempo following the drummer’s resounding cymbal grinds. From then on, the mid-range exposition features a cymbal accent, drum roll or ruff each time the pianist emphasizes a phrase.

Close cooperation is also rife on Improvised Pieces for Trio. Yet here, as opposed to the rhythm section’s role on the other CD, Orrù and Oxley are dedicated to expanding individual techniques. The drummer highlights wood-block pops, irregular patterning, conga-drum-like pats and descending rolls; Orrù’s inner resonations are obvious as frequently, as arco slides dissipate or intensify the tension. Plus he isn’t above matching Meloni’s rough cascades with sul ponticello slices.

Systematic and linear, the pianist often resorts to repetitions and pauses to add emotional content to the often understated pieces. Self-possessed, Meloni uses different keyboard ploys. On “Vertical Suite: Solos & Trio” for instance, his soundboard rattling and tremolo key strumming slow down to meet vibrating cymbals, only to be transformed into an intermezzo whose linear quality is underlined by an interlude of clatters and claps from Oxley. With an equivalent number of percussion clip-clops and an alternately sawing and walking bass line from Orrù, the pianist not only builds expansive cross tones to a subtle swing, but also highlights a secondary staccatissimo line.

Since Cagliari is hardly a capital of improvised music such as New York or Berlin – let alone Milan or Rome – Meloni’s undoubted talents haven’t been properly exposed to the (Jazz) world at large. Perhaps these fine sessions will help rectify this omission.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Dialogues: 1. Shadows 2. A Quiet Place 3. Children 4. Waking Up 5. Snowfall 6. Visions 7. In the Night 8. A New Theme 9. Dialogues 10. A Quiet Place 11. Three Ways 12. Sleeplessness

Personnel: Dialogues: Sebastiano Meloni (piano); Nicola Cossu (bass) and Roberto Dani (drums)

Track Listing: Improvised: 1. Contrasts 2. Trio No.1 3. Improvviso 4. Trio No.2 5. Prelude 6. Opening 7. Clusters 8. Ostinato 9. Vertical No.1 10. Trio No.3 11. Vertical Suite: Solos & Trio 12. Ballad 13. Vertical Duo 14. Scherzo

Personnel: Improvised: Sebastiano Meloni (piano); Adriano Orrù (bass) and Tony Oxley (drums)