Progetto Guzman

If Not: Omaggio a Mario Schiano
Terre Sommerse TSJE 1013

Progenitor of advanced improv in Italy and its nation-wide dissemination, Neapolitan alto saxophonist Mario Schiano (1933-2008), not only in 1966 recorded If Not Ecstatic We Refund, the country’s first Free Jazz LP, but stayed relevant throughout the years, playing alongside many younger stylists as maintaining a membership in the all-star Italian Instabile Orchestra (IIO) until just before his death.

This imaginative CD, recorded slightly after the third anniversary of Schiano’s demise, honors his prescience with 13 tracks composed by or referencing the saxophonist. Although the main protagonists, trumpeter Angelo Olivieri and Brazilian-born saxophonist Alípio C Neto and the majority of the musicians didn’t play with Schiano, some tracks beef up the ensemble with contributions from veterans such as saxophonists Pasquale Innarella and Eugenio Colombo who were with Schiano in the IIO, or in the case of trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini, were present at Italian Free Jazz ground zero on If Not Ecstatic We Refund.

Like Schiano, a Rome resident for most of his career, Neto and Olivieri collaborate with non-local musicians; Olivieri, who earned a PhD in fluid dynamics, plays most notably with bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake; Neto has worked with the likes of bassist Adam Lane and violinist Carlos Zíngaro.

Over the course of this disc, the players mix old and new tropes, keeping the swing underpinning implicit in the wide and powerful lines from bassists Silvia Bolognesi and Roberto Raciti; often breaking up the expected rhythmic undertow when any of the percussionists – Ermanno Baron, Marco Ariano and Ivano Nardi – use Latin and/or oddly sources beats. Meanwhile Olivieri’s brass timbres use enough plunger burrowing to harken back to Jazz’s earliest days; abetted by Schiaffini’s modern-day gutbucket in several instances. In contrast, the majority of saxophone lines stay mostly in the FreeBop mode, a sort of atonal andante, where it seems they’re about the burst into Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” at the first opportunity. Other tracks, such as “Lover Man”, one of Schiano’s signature tunes, are treated with a combination of thematic fealty and sequence reconstitution. Balanced on buzzing and rappelling double bass lines, most likely from Bolognesi, that theme is backed into after variations on it from narrow quivering reeds and trumpet bites.

Overall, as well, the second version of “If Not Ecstatic We Refund” is more in character with Schiano’s mischievous personality then when first played on the CD. Parade-band percussion, Dixieland brass and New Thing-styled reed work are equally referenced. And if the trumpet solo is almost dirge-like, the saxophone responses – plus clarinet-like riffing from Neto’s curved soprano sax– is more along the lines of boisterous post-funeral New Orleans’ marches. Effective modernism is injected into “Dadà”, as well, with reverberating electronic-sounding asides sharing space with barnyard animal-styled lows, shrieks from the horns and bass string scrubs.

Most notable of the tracks however is the A Sud suite that mixes Schiano’s “Sud” and Olivieri’s “Sur”, with “Sa Bruscia” by the late bassist Marcello Melis, founder of the Gruppo Romano Free Jazz with Schiano and Schiaffini. An authoritative bass ostinato and drumming that encompasses nerve beats and back beats hold the parts together, while harmonized brass and flute presage the finale.

A matchless tribute to one of Italy’s most accomplished Jazz musicians, the ensemble lets the honoree have the last word. The CD’s final minute is taken up by a scratchy recording of Schiano himself on piano and alto performing his parody of Italian nightclub crooning.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Indicazioni Contro 2. If Not Ecstatic We Refund 3. Lover Man 4. Dicitencello Vuje 5. A Sud 6. Caatinga 7. G 8. DQ 9. Dadà 10. Accarezzame 11. Corale 12. If Not Ecstatic We Refund 13. Song

Personnel: Angelo Olivieri (trumpet, pocket trumpet); Giancarlo Schiaffini (trombone); Eugenio Colombo (soprano saxophone and flute); Pasquale Innarella (alto saxophone); Alipio C Neto (curved soprano and tenor saxophones); Silvia Bolognesi and Roberto Raciti (bass); Ermanno Baron (drums); Marco Ariano (drums, percussion and effects); Ivano Nardi (drums and objects) and Maria Pia De Vito (voice)