Mazzù/Siwula/Troja

D’Istantes3
SLAM 537

By Ken Waxman

After five years of intercontinental music making, Italians, pianist Luciano Troja and guitarist/drummer Giancarlo Mazzù, plus New York multi-reedist Blaise Siwula have finally recorded their co-operative trio. On the evidence of this fine CD, the wait was worth it. With interactive familiarity engendered by time, the three easily enmesh unique textures and timbres into a satisfying whole.

The most accommodating of players, who curates NYC’s long-running C.O.M.A. Series, Siwula is an improviser who has never been inhibited by fashion or genre. That makes him a perfect foil for the other two, whose musical explorations flow equally from so-called classical music and folkloric suggestions as well as the liberation implicit in free music,

As an added bonus, D’Istantes3’s seven tracks are divided in such a way that two unique trios could be on hand. One, more jazz-oriented, usually features Siwula playing alto or tenor saxophone in a tart, impassioned manner, while Mazzù demonstrates his talent as a drumming time-keeper with a fondness for shuffle beats. Here Troja’s command of blues progressions and other swing conventions is on show as well. With his styling more akin to those from contemporary New music, and with emphasis on internal string strategies as well as the keyboard, the pianist helps define the second trio. Added to this combo variant are Mazzù’s harsh rasgueado and slurred fingering on the guitar, plus the reedist’s extended techniques, usually expressed in the chalumeau register of the clarinet or bass clarinet.

For instance with Mazzù’s slaps and ruffs and Troja’s metronomic pulsing propelling the tune forward, “Istantes 2” finds Siwula’s saxophone lines evolving from hesitant flutters to multiphonic, circular smears. As the drum beat thickens, the saxophonist introduces key percussion, with all three players finally inculcating a variant of ethno-jazz to reconstitute the theme. In contrast, “Istantes 1” could have been through-composed in early 20th Century Vienna. As low-pitched clarinet puffs eventually sharpen, reed lines are accompanied by harp-like strums from the guitarist and busy piano patterns. Following an interlude where Mazzù vocalizes along with his guitar fills, Siwula’s staccato tonguing engenders tension building, which only dissipates when reed chirps unite with pressured single piano notes.

Divisions aren’t hard and fast however, since many tracks exhibit both recital-hall and dance-hall characteristics. “Istantes 2” for example, has the pianist’s blues progression and the drummer’s rolls and shuffles suggesting ‘30s Swing, while the reedist’s heavily vibrated bass clarinet slurs are strictly 21st Century. Equilibrium is restored however as Siwula relaxes into more straightforward trills, complementing Troja’s cascading keyboard runs.

By the final selection the three have managed to forge inimitable sequences which within seconds can call on the characteristics of other musics, while maintaining an interface that’s strictly the band’s own.

Tracks: Istantes 1; Istantes 2; Istantes 3; Istantes 4; Istantes 5; Istantes 6; Istantes 7

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: alto, tenor saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet; Luciano Troja: piano; Giancarlo Mazzù: guitar, drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record January 2013