Pipeline 8

July 14, 2019


Chris Welcome
Beyond All Things
Live at the Bushwick Series
GauciMusic No #

Endowed with the multiple instrumental tinctures expected from a larger band yet malleable enough to shift sequences at will the octet has long been a favored vehicle for musical exploration. But just as having four wheels doesn’t make one car the same as another, so working with eight players doesn’t end up with the same sounds – even in conception.

Organized by Italian bass clarinetist Giancarlo Nino Locatelli, Prayer for instance, is a boisterous salute to the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, an important influence on Locatelli, who has also worked in groups like the Fish Horn Quartet and the Tai-No Orchestra. Consisting in the main of Lacy compositions the interpretations are by some of the most accomplished Mediterranean improvisers such as pianist Alberto Braida, who worked in duo with Locatelli, trombonist Sebi Tramontana, trumpeter Gabriele Mitelli, percussionist Cristiano Calcagnile, guitarist Gianmaria Aprile, cellist Luca Tilli and bassist Andrea Grossi.

As dissimilar as hotdogs are to pasta, Beyond All Things is a classic Brooklyn Free Jazz energy blast, directed by guitarist Chris Welcome, known for his work with Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut and Lisa Mezzacappa, as one self-contained more than 28½-minute directed improvisation. It features a cross section of New York experimenters such as drummer Mike Pride, corniest Kirk Knuffke, trumpeter Jamie Branch, trombonist Ben Gerstein, bassist Shayna Dulberger and saxophonists Anthony Ware and Sam Weinberg.

The Prayer meeting is first expressed by the bouncy cello and soprano saxophone lines at the beginning of “I Do Not Believe”, the first track, and with horn harmonies sparked by the rhythm section, the piece settles into a relaxed groove. Stand-out progress on the first track include Braida’s high-frequency vamps, Calcagnile’s rattling drum pops, Mitelli’s near-bugle-call exposition and Tramontana’s plunger growls – and later theme recapitulation via a choir of trombone, clarinet and trumpet. This easygoing sincerity is projected through the session, with the tracks moving at an ambulatory pace, banda suggestions in the group arrangements and Grossi’s measured slaps always there to introduce tracks and then give them a rhythmic impetus. Tellingly, Locatelli’s emotional story-telling manages to evoke Lacy’s creativity without imitation. Uniquely though, on sequences such as those on “The Rent”, the clarinetist’s coloratura lines double Tilli’s cello strokes and slaps or join with the brass for trenchant descending tonal descriptions. The extended “(Around blinks) Trickles” is also the most explosively aggressive piece with mounting energy expressed through fluttering reed split tones, string slides, percussive piano key clipping, triplets shouted from the brass, drum rim shots and even vocal exhortations. But enough control is maintained that the polyphonic snorts and snarls reassemble into a march-like theme by the finale. In fact that sort of reined-in theme development is most cleverly expressed on the title track. That’s where, where angled counterpoint from the cellist and guitarist modulate the double bass pressure in the exposition and organized harmonics from all concerned layer a summation that’s both energetic and eloquent.

Maintaining energy is no dilemma for the group on Beyond All Things. That’s because reed and brass growls and all manner of thumping, gonging and smacks from three percussionists suggest that 1960s Free Jazz has been revived. However Welcome’s direction and the sophistication of the players is enough to keep the program from falling into repetition or ennui. Organized so that place-marking breaks are expressed throughout, the improvisation evolves from sequence to sequence as the tune builds to a dramatic crescendo and subsequently downshifts to a logical conclusion. As the program sways forward towards the end, chunky percussion pops and Gerstein’s almost renal-sourced trombone blasts maintain the bottom continuum. Meantime there’s enough space for acute capillary blasts from Knuffke and Branch, an intense vibration intermezzo in the form of a Ware and Weinberg reed challenge, and echoing guitar flanges from Welcome. Additionally no matter how many reed tones are split or how much brass valve pressure is shattered, an overriding swing groove is maintained by the bassist and drummer. Timbral dislocation is expressed enough to build emotional passion, but choruses of textural clusters bring the piece to a harmonized conclusion.

Two solutions to the challenge of using an octet to its best advantage, each of these discs are worth exploring.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Prayer: 1. I Do Not Believe 2. Traces 3 Joy 4. Prayer 5. The Rent 6, A Lacy Sunday (Pipeline 8) 7. (Around blinks) Trickles

Personnel: Prayer: Gabriele Mitelli (pocket trumpet, genis, percussion); Sebastiano Tramontana (trombone); Giancarlo Nino Locatelli (bass clarinet, percussion); Alberto Braida (piano): Gianmaria Aprile (guitar); Luca Tilli (cello); Andrea Grossi (bass) and Cristiano Calcagnile (drums, percussion)

Track Listing: Beyond: 1. Beyond All Things

Personnel: Beyond: Kirk Knuffke (cornets); Jamie Branch (trumpet); Ben Gerstein (trombone, percussion); Anthony Ware (alto saxophone); Sam Weinberg (tenor saxophone): Chris Welcome (guitar, percussion); Shayna Dulberger (bass); Mike Pride (drums)