Papetti-Manisalco-Rubino

Small Choices AUT Records 006

Why not improvise on so-called classical music themes is a question increasingly answered in the positive by adventurous players of every genre. Thus the Italian trio involved in Small Choices dedicates more than half this CD to such prestidigitation.

These are serious improvisations, not a jazzy overlay of notated music however. Which means that when bassist Giacomo Papetti, pianist Emanuele Maniscalco and Gabriele Rubino on piccolo, soprano and bass clarinets deal with themes by Sibelius or Ligeti they bring the same freedom to experiment with them as they would with tunes by Ellington or Monk.

Fine del Tempo, for instance, inspired by Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps, adds a rhythmic undertow, and before recapping the head, stretches the theme with unbroken trills from Rubino, Papetti’s slap bass plus Maniscalco’s repeated note clusters. On the other hand, Escape from Ainola, taken from Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony, maintains panoramic echoes with resonating chords from the keyboard and a buzzing bass line. Here Rubino creates the bonding ostinato as the others interject sub-motifs or decorate the brooding theme.

Solid definitions and identifications are proven unfeasible on some of the other tracks however. With sweeping piano glissandi, double bass thumps and a melody propelled by delicate soprano clarinet sweeps, Nascondere appear to be another contrafact of classical notated music. Instead it’s a completely original composition by Papetti.

Two of the three players here earned advanced conservatory degrees in both notated and improvised music. Although Maniscalco, in contrast, is an autodidact – like Schoenberg and Elgar – this sort of jazz, classical crossover will likely become much more common in future. Small Choices shows the way.

—Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note