Massimo De Mattia

Black Novel
Rudi Records RRJ 1008

Virtually unknown outside his native Italy, Massimo De Mattia is a self-taught flutist with prodigious technique, who with Black Novel has created an outstanding session that mixes lyrical emotionalism with exacting experimentation.

The Pordenone-born wind specialist, who has played with some of the country’s top improvisers including pianist Giorgio Pacorig and reedist Gianluigi Trovesi, works his way through seven numbers alongside four associates here. Organically, their rubato or stop-time flow is such, that the absence of drums isn’t noticed. At the same time this is all done within an ensemble complete by vibes, piano, guitar and bass. It’s as if pianist George Shearing’s or flutist Herbie Mann’s popular 1960s combos with similar instrumentation had played their own version of Energy Music.

Throughout the theme variations encompass diatonic discord, staccato pulsing and polyphonic outreach. Most of the time De Mattia’s extended fripple action floats freely while counterpoint is set up between Luigi Vital`s vibes or marimba and guitarist Denis Biason’s sharpened licks and snapping twangs. Biason, along with the flutist has recorded with Serbian percussionist Zlatko Kaučič; so has pianist Bruno Ceselli, who also often makes up a rhythm team with the featured bassist Alessandro Turchet. For his part, Vital often moves the narrative along with updated Bobby Hutcherson-style chiming

Tunes such as “War Hole” for instance are intercut with echoing marimba pops as thick bass slaps underlie Ceselli’s spacious and bouncing chording, which frequently slips from Monkish to Stride. Moving from cacophony to moderato choruses on other tunes, other contrasts that are set up are between De Mattia’s multiphonic flute movement and Biason’s finger style slurs. On the other hand music on title track sprints from moderato to staccato, quickening due to flamboyant six-string clanging alongside stentorian bass thumps. Meanwhile

Ceselli and Vitale provide a compelling contrast by replicating their parts at half-speed. The strands are finally knit together as the five downshift to the basso range with straight-ahead cohesion.

As a change of pace, the concluding “Tortured Flowers” could be notated New Music with its foreshortened flute glissandi and friction-laden cascading metal bar chiming. However the tune take on more of a staccato character in its centre, as metronomic vibe rattles, bass slaps and chalumeau air pressure from the flutist blend with chording piano and clanking guitar runs to achieve more free-flowing motion.

It would be a shame if, deluded by the instrumentation which makes it appear to be a smooth Jazz revival unit, improv followers pass on Black Novel. Quietly and with links to conventional sound tropes, De Mattia and company are subverting expectations with this disc. Plus they’re creating notable music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Hieronymus 2. Full Blue 3. Black Novel 4. Seppuku/Mishima 5. War Hole 6. Nitesco 7. Tortured Flowers

Personnel: Massimo De Mattia (flutes); Bruno Cesselli (piano); Luigi Vitale (vibraphone and marimba); Denis Biason (guitars) and Alessandro Turchet (bass)