Francesco Chiapperini Extemporary Vision Ensemble

The Big Earth
Rudi Records RRJ 1037

Christmas melodies tempered with a little or a lot of freely improvised sounds seem to have become a tradition perhaps because of the Yuletide holiday’s benign appeal. But what about sounds associated with other celebrations? Milan-based clarinetist Francesco Chiapperini takes up the challenge here crafting nimble arrangements that mix ecclesiastical tones with Jazz compositions from members of the 12-pice Extemporary Vision Ensemble (EVE). What that means is that throughout the 14 tracks, EVE blends to singular ends inferences from rustic banda fanfares and Resurrection celebration processions with freely improvised passages and sophisticated ensemble writing.

Beginning with the measured death-march-like pace of “Palmieri”, whose brassy Palm Sunday-like cavalcade recreation is advanced with drum rolls, the CD concludes with an upbeat coda of “Fantozzi”, a spry Tarantella-like free-for-all, propelled by squeaky reeds and wavering brass. Appropriately then, Chiapperini’s program is true to both improvised freedom and Puglian tradition. Along the way coloration is provided by solos or intersection of the strings, brass, reeds and percussion involved. Noted among the sound articulators are pianist Simone Quatrana, whose positive pacing on “Tramonto tragico” encompasses rich, variable cadenzas; and whose asides and dynamic smashes and splashes on “La segg aggstat” evolve from a low-toned exposition to high-pitched, spiraling glissandi that succinctly match kinetic Cecil Taylor-like imagination with time-suspending McCoy Tyner-like pianism. Reed honks help enliven that tune, as they do elsewhere, usually mated with comparable brass counterpoint as on “Canigatti”. Interspaced with tutti interludes, that dance-like theme glides from brassy trumpets and Andrea Baronchelli’s plunger trombone to double-tongued whirls and whorls from Chiapperini’s clarinet and “Jimmy” Catagnoli’s alto saxophone, only to crown a rhythmic interlude with skyscraper high trumpeting from Emanuele Galante or Marco Galetta. Gabriel-like notes from one of the two are put to good use to contrast with a parallel string exposition on “Palmieralzer” or to follow up a dramatic, yet understated double bass template from Andrea Grossi on “Gatti”. That piece also features a harmonized tuba-clarinet marching band exposition. Meanwhile thickened string section parallelism dissolves into frenetic spiccato elsewhere to confirm that EVE easily surmounts the simple harmonies and intonations that usually limit traditional brass bands.

In the increasingly agnostic and cynical climate of the West, it’s likely that not many others will attempt what Chiapperini and EVE do so notably here, nor conversely are theocrats likely to replace the canticles used in liturgical programs with the sounds here. The Easter homily to take away however, is that The Big Earth is is a high-quality disc that can be admired by everyone regardless of religious inclination.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Palmieri 2. La merc d Palm 3. Tramonto tragico 4. Gatti 5. Palmieralzer 6. U Conzasiegge 7. La segg aggstat 8. Gatti (reprise #1) 9. Canigatti 9, La varc du pescator 10. Il pescatore 11. Gatti (reprise #2) 12. Gattigulì 13. Fantozzi

Personnel: Vito Emanuele Galante, Marco Galetta (trumpet); Andrea Baronchelli (trombone, tuba); Francesco Chiapperini (clarinet, bass clarinet); Andrea “Jimmy” Catagnoli (alto saxophone); Gianluca Elia (tenor saxophone); Simone Quatrana (piano); Eloisa Manera (violin); Luca Pissavini (cello); Andrea Grossi (bass); Filippo Sala (drums)and Filippo Monico (percussion)