Stefano Giust / Massimo De Mattia / Giorgio Pacorig / Giovanni Maier

April 12, 2018

Giust/De Mattia/Pacorig/Maier

Desidero Vedeere, Sento

By Ken Waxman

Quietly yet decisively, a new generation of Italian improvisers has made its presence felt internationally during the past decade and a half, definitely including the four who created the suite that makes up this memorable disc. These players can be termed the DIY generation since their age and experience mandates self-reliance, characterized by among other things, Setola di Maiale, percussionist Stefano Giust’s Bologna-based label that release many of their projects.

Unlike earlier Mediterranean soloists, whose heart-on-sleeve romanticism was often as much exhibition as ecstasy, the players here – flutist Massimo De Mattia, keyboardist Giorgio Pacorig, bassist Giovanni Maier and Giust – never downplay their musical sophistication. But like a modern, furnace that heats nearly noiselessly, the players’ creativity is just as profound. Careful listening to drum clip-clops, metallic transverse blowing, piano explorations and string resonations reveals an understated passion that percolates just before the surface. Case in point, De Mattia’s breathy decorum throughout, and especially on “Addio (Dire Il Vero)”, where his warm playing expresses calm as well as innovation. While some group members come from a milieu where the Punk ethos is as important as conservatory training, their adherence to the Jazz-Improv tradition is paramount, having collectively played with musician such Carlo Actis Dato, Gianluigi Trovesi, Giancarlo Schiaffini and Daniele D’Agaro.

Appropriately, if enigmatically, Desidero Vedeere, Sento, translates as I Want to See, I Feel, and Giust explains that the disc’s name and curious track titles came from a surrealist-like exercise. Randomly picking phrases or words from a trilogy of Samuel Beckett’s writings, and connected them created the titles, just as linking the skills of the CD’s individual improvisers created this peerless quartet. “Addio (Dire Il Vero)” provides another instance of this as the initial flute exhalation, plinks from inner-piano and double-bass strings plus deliberate drum thumps unite to move the narrative from recital-like interface to a final sequence of descending string slashes, ringing pianism, rim shakes and angled flute barks: profound Free Music without bluster.

At the same time with Italian cheerfulness, the quartet members avoid excess staidness. The judders from Pacorig’s accordion-resembling clavietta are antidotes to solemnity, as are the others’ kinetic and sprightly melody variations. Among the notable instances are tracks such as “Li Per Li, Le Stesse” and “Bugiardo, Diceva”. On the first, expressive keyboard chording and a double-bass drone reshape the whistling flute introduction to such an extent that in response, by the finale, De Mattia’s timbre is transformed into a snarky combination of dark and vocalized tones. Auspiciously, Giust demonstrates on “Bugiardo, Diceva”, that a stimulating drum feature can exist within the parameters of wholly improvised music. Combining single rim pings, drum top reverb and ratcheting cymbal strokes, the clatters and pops could burnish any contemporary jazz session. Here they meld with Maier’s bowed double stops and the flutist’s metallic puffs to expose a complementary melody.

As penetratingly intelligent in conception as it is rhythmically and melodically exciting in performance, Desidero Vedeere, Semto’s five tracks prove that skilled improvisers can display seemingly incompatible concepts simultaneously. And it confirms that members of the DIY generation of Italian sound explorers can easily claim their rightful place in any advanced international musical situation.

Ken Waxman

Toronto, December 2017