Gianni Mimmo/Alison Blunt

Busy Butterflies
Amirani Records AMNR 062

Sestetto Internationale

Live in Munich 2019

Fundacja Słucha FSR 01/2020

Object lessons in micro and macro modifications from the duo of British-based violinist Alison Blunt and Italian soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo has the two improvising alone and as part of a mixed sextet. Each glimpse is representative.

Recorded in concert Live in Munich 2019 finds the established duo embedded within Sestetto Internationale, alongside Finns, soprano/sopranino saxophonist Harri Sjöström and accordionist Veli Kujala plus Germans, pianist Achim Kaufmann and Ignaz Schick playing turntables and sampler, all of whom have extensive experience in Free Jazz and the Free Music. Curiously each CD begins with an extended track, which is also the longest on the disc.

Sestetto’s “Quasars #1” for instance is nearly 37 minutes in length. But playing it the six players quickly dispense with any sonic queasiness suggested by the unusual instrumental line up, craftily working out a musical détente. With processional piano dynamics advancing the narrative, the first third of the piece has dual saxophone trills and Blunt’s string pumps thickening the exposition while Kujala’s dry tremolo heaves decorate the unfolding line, Schick’s vinyl-sourced sampler echoes, shrills and shudders either strengthen or disrupt the interface – sometimes both at the same time. When the first section of layered polyphony arrives, the scrapping and clipping from Kaufmann’s keyboard suddenly turns to individualistic exploratory patterns. Distinctively this sequence reveals singular motifs among the layered narrative with Blunt’s smooth or sawing strings related to 19th Century impressionistic and folkloric traditions; Sjöström forthright saxophone trills reaching towards 20th Century mainstream Jazz; and Schick’s machines’ crackles, curves and drones hooked into the 21st Century. These contradictions are resolved in the final section when the multiphonic theme opens up to encompass loud rustles and whooshes from the accordion almost replicating rumbling vibrations from the turntables, backwards running piano keyboard clips and violin string sweeps melding. Meanwhile the saxophonists’ offer differing interpretations of the theme, as one constantly trills and peeps and the other slap tongues and reed sucks. Before “Pikku Pala”, the encore which is mostly group expression with reed smears, sampler yelps and piano plinks concludes the set, the penultimate “Quasars #1” confirms the six-part polyphony. Here pinched smears from dueling saxophones, high-pitched pulsations from the violin and accordion waver into pinched connection atop a continuo from rolling piano splashes.

The sextet disc is also notable for the jumping symmetry expressed on “Notturno” by Blunt’s sympathetic string scrubs and Mimmo airy reed trills presaging a calming connection. But dual interpretations are explored at greater length on Busy Butterflies' six tracks, recorded four months later. Again like on the preceding CD, the 20½ minute title track explores the Italo-English partnership at its greatest length. Creating a jolly near-pastoral interface, Blunt dynamically pops her string set while Mimmo moves up the scale without losing the narrative centre. As the violinist’s speedy glissandi suggest romantic interludes, the saxophonist’s power puffs and swooping smears match the references until both lines join in double counterpoint of exceptional beauty. Then as they’ve proven their credentials as dual motif sweeteners, Mimmo and Blunt systematically begin splintering the narrative with spiccato bow shakes from the violinist and lower-pitched slurps from the saxophonist. Eventually they flatten the curve from broken chord exhibitions to tandem improvising without unnecessary spikes or dissolves, sandwiching each contribution into a satisfying whole. Ferocious reed whistles and clenched string sawing make their appearance throughout the other tracks. But even when such asides as sharp jumps and jitters on “Dense-Dance-Evidence” or multi-string kinetics and shrilling saxophone cries on “Ravenoville Plage” are heard, pealing kinetics ultimately unite timbres into a moderato, but still sophisticated connection.

Alone or as part of a larger unit, Mimmo and Blunt confirm their interrelation as improvisers and interpreters.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Live: 1. Quasars #1 2. Notturno 3. Anak #1 4. No Niin 5. Quasars #2 6. Pikku Pala

Personnel: Live: Gianni Mimmo (soprano saxophone); Harri Sjöström (soprano and sopranino saxophones): Alison Blunt (violin); Achim Kaufmann (piano); Veli Kujala (quarter tone accordion) and Ignaz Schick (turntables and sampler)

Track Listing: Busy: 1. Busy Butterflies 2. Ravenoville Plage 3. Humble Sonata 4. Dense-Dance-Evidence 5. More Than One Turn 6. Oracle’s Regret

Personnel: Busy: Gianni Mimmo (soprano saxophone) and Alison Blunt (violin)