Flavio Zanuttini / Piero Bittolo Bon / Marco D’Orlando

May 25, 2020

Born Baby Born

Clean Feed CF 506 CD

Santos Silva/Trillla/Gibson

Fish Wool

JACC Records JR 037 CD

Rejecting the supposed limitations in creating a compact improvising unit without chordal instruments, these trios produce equally compelling sessions which formulate the sound blending of one reed, one brass and one percussion instrument. Born Baby Born, featuring Italians trumpeter Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa, alto saxophonist Piero Bittolo Bon and drummer Marco D’Orlando, is Free Music that is both cadenced and complex with unexpected echoes of Dixieland and Italian banda. More shaded and speculative the seven improvisations on Fish Wool are named for various-sized piscatorial vertebrate trawled by Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, Brazilian tenor and soprano saxophonist Yedo Gibson and Spanish drummer Vasco Trilla.

Although one of the bands Bittolo Bon is part of is called Jümp the Shark, there’s nothing ichthyic about his playing as he communicates with the trumpeter and drummer who work together in the Arbe Garbe group. Making the most of musical economy the tracks often depend on call-and-response between Zanuttini’s choked air expelling or plunger cries and the saxophonist’s theme decorations that can range from siren-like yelps to widening multiphonic blowing. As rhythmically prudent as Baby Dodds, only rarely does D’Orlando ascend to splashy ebullience, preferring to concentrate on relaxed press rolls, rim shots and soft-shoe-like rhythm pacing. This stick-clicking and measured cymbal rasps make points without excessive noise on tunes such as “Schie Cimice” as the horns’ upwards flutter tonguing starts to resemble the William Tell Overture and end with the same patterns reoccurring but at a quicker and more powerful pace. Reed slurs, capillary peeps and rat-tat-tat drumming make the final selections more dramatic than the first. A finger-popping beat and dynamic motion are featured on the brief “Hop Hop” and the extended and final “La Nanna”. But more emotion is expressed in a stop-time duet between reed bites and capillary plunger slurs on the first tune, or in the episodic unfolding on the final track. Knocks and rolls from the drummer help slow down “La Nanna” to a riffing narrative characterized by wide-open reed vibrations and trumpet gurgles, and, following a brief pause, a coda of embellished brass frills, saxophone sputters and tick-tock drumming.

Very little appears to be as formally arranged on the sea food titled displays on Fish Wool which involve players from three sometimes aquatic countries. Perhaps more related to the deep breathing exercises needed by divers, the horn counterpoint on the CD often involves spiraling slurs from the saxophone and lip-sucking tone excavation from the trumpeter with Trillla contributing cymbal crackles and pared-down swabs and rim shots. Like Born Baby Born, this CD’s program appears to improve and intensify as it moves along and the participants become more comfortable in the setting. Trillla and Gibson have recorded together often as well as with players ranging from Colin Webster and Rafał Mazur to Luís Vicente and Veryan Weston As for the trumpeter she has been involved in sessions with everyone from Torbjörn Zetterverg to Kaja Draksler. The cumulative experience among many improvisers means that throughout the disc that the trio’s version of fly fishing involves staccato echoes and dissonant cries from deep inside the horns, percussion rolls and shudders plus variable baited musical hooks from all. Frequently ending with colorful sound upsurges, peeps, slips, brief introductions and curtailing of secondary melodies decorate and extends the earlier tracks.

Turning deadly serious though, “Piranha” on the second part of the disc, begins with an elevated squeak from the trumpeter, mewling and slurring timbres from the saxophonist as the drummer’s clip-clops encourage an ambulatory pulse. As Santos Silva and Gibson exchange port and starboard runs with slap tonguing and tongue fluttering the tune almost turns to cacophony before stabilizing into conclusive and connective capillary sighs with untouched valve pressure from the trumpeter’s aviary peeps from the saxophonist. However it’s the penultimate track, which is more definitive, perhaps reflecting the serious reputation of its dedicatee, the “Bull Shark”. As burbles and whistles leak from both horns with constant motion the result is a timbre that is as close to electronic synthesis as acoustic instruments can produce. Subsequently dissolving to a leisurely pace, Santos Silva and Gibson harmonize striking harmonies with breathy mid-range saxophone tones and velvety brass expressions, circling the notes in unison like bees extracting honey from flowers. The final downshift to stasis involves a coda of cracks and slaps from Trillla, slithering split tones from the saxophonist and plunger slurs from the trumpeter.

While one trio may be more entertaining and the other more exploratory when comparing these CDs, both demonstrate a thorough command of the material despite or perhaps because of this limited instrumental blend.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fish: 1. Box Jelly Fish 2. Puffer Fish 3. Stone Fish 4, Great White Shark 5. Piranha 6. Bull Shark 7. Wolf Fish

Personnel: Fish: Susana Santos Silva (trumpet): Yedo Gibson (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Vasco Trilla (drums)

Track Listing: Born: 1. Sci Sce Scio Sciu 2. Agitation Is Not Excitation 3. Opacipapa 4.Squeek 5. Schie Cimice 6. Grazi Grazi 7. Hop Hop 8. La Nanna

Personnel: Born: Flavio Zanuttini (trumpet); Piero Bittolo Bon (alto saxophone) and Marco D’Orlando (drums)