Guidi/Petrella/Sclavis/Cleaver

Ida Lupino
ECM 2462

Although rightly so, Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi is the name above the title of this above-average CD of compositions and improvisations, he’s merely the first among equals. More profoundly the elaborations of the themes depend as much on the eloquent slide exaggerations of Bari-born trombonist Gianluca Petrella as Foligno-born Guidi’s keyboard skills. While the two dexterously partner as if comporting themselves in performing Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire routines, like the dances they need backing scenery and sounds from which to project. Sophisticated American drummer Gerald Cleaver provides the judicious rhythm that moves along these tracks. Meanwhile like the blustery foil on screen to try to separate the leads, French clarinetist Louis Sclavis adds a selected reed obbligato when warranted.

Guidi and Petrella both work regularly with veteran trumpeter Enrico Rava, other groups and in duo. Tracks like “Per i morti di Reggio Amilia” and the concluding “The Gam Scorpions” show off notable cooperation, with “The Gam Scorpions” serving as a dramatic slide showcase, revolving alongside precise bottom-based tremolos from the pianist. More balladic, “Per i morti di Reggio Amilia” is as notable, with Petrella moving to expressive, emotional theme variations after setting the scene with bagpipe chanter-like blowing. Gently romantic Guidi backs brass slurs with clean ringing tones while Cleaver subtly vibrates and rolls.

With or without Sclavis the group is also capable of lusty swing as it demonstrates on tracks such as “Jeronimo” where like character actors setting up a scene, staccato pianism and drum slaps anchor contrapuntal variations between the horn players and move upwards for the conclusion adding exciting asides on the way. Strangely “No More Calypso?” played heavier and harder than most other tracks, sounds as if it’s a deconstructed version of “Night in Tunisia”, though how the Maghreb got to the Caribbean is a mystery.

Overall, the players show, that like a specially assembled film crew, they have the specialized smarts and sophistication to create in duo, trio or quartet form, coming up with the same high-gloss productions. There is one drawback however. While producing the equivalent of cinematic-like short subjects here, made obvious by titling the CD after the pianist’s and trombonist’s atmospheric variant of Carla Bley’s salute to actress/director Ida Lupino, Guidi appear to forget that Lupino’s oeuvre was created within the concise structure of the studio system. In contrast the performances here are more like a director’s cuts at a film retrospective. Seventy-seven minutes of performances stretched over 14 tracks is in many ways too much. One day Guidi may be the musical equivalent of Fellini or Rossellini, but to be truly appreciated in its heightened form, this CD should be listened to over several sessions.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love 2. Just Tell Me Who It Was 3. Jeronimo 4. Ida Lupino 5. Per i morti di Reggio Amilia 6. Gato! 7. La Terra 8. No More Calypso? 9. Rouge Lust 10. Things We Never Planned 11. Fidel Slow 12. Hard Walk 13. Zweig 14. The Gam Scorpions

Personnel: Gianluca Petrella (trombone); Louis Sclavis (clarinet, bass clarinet); Giovanni Guidi (piano) and Gerald Cleaver (drum)