Taylor Ho Bynum / Dimitri Grechi Espinoza / Emanuele Parrini / Giovanni Maier / Andrea Melani

June 2, 2021

Digging Reflections on Jazz and Blues

Felmay fy 7064

In Layers


FMR Records CD 591-1020

Small group interaction featuring chordal and brass instruments as chief points of congruence illuminate these two discs which are mostly Portuguese and mostly Italian. Mostly because Italian violinist Emanuele Parrini’s quintet includes American cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and the Lisbon-based In Layers quartet features Dutch drummer Onno Govaert. Otherwise the four and five musicians motivate the thin line between free improvisation and composition interpretation with the Italians closer to the latter and the Portuguese more committed to the former.

A member of international and local ensembles such as the Italian Instabile Orchestra, Parrini also calls on the talents of bassist Giovanni Maier, who created two interludes in the violinist’s salute to poet Amiri Baraka; as well as alto saxophonist Dimitri Grechi Espinoza and drummer Andrea Melani to fill out the parameters of this nine-part suite. While Bynum confirms his nationality by playing an excerpt from the US national anthem, plus work songs and jokey circus music quotes elsewhere, he cooperates fully with the others. Usually this takes the form of brassy flutter tonguing mixed with jagged spiccato string expansions and sharp reed split tones. While arranged as group music, space exists for defining solos. This is especially obvious on the bassist’s three compositions as he alternately struts strongly or bobs up and down on his string set. This propels outwards drones or on “San Frediano” sets up a righteous pizzicato pulse that promotes a swinging story-telling exposition by the horns. This in turns torques the 3rd Movement of Parrini’s “The Blessed Prince” suite.

Overall there’s a mixture of smears and sweeps from the cornetist and the violinist plus reed snarls and hardened paradiddles from Melani, before all reach a climax of expressive polyphony. Meantime it’s Maier’s well-thought-out patterning that keep narratives down-to-earth on the suite’s earlier iterations. Otherwise with high register squalls and a smooth obbligato from Espinoza, the pieces become violin showpieces. As he spins out theme variations, Parrini also squeezes string bounces and jagged sul tasto strokes from his instrument at points in double counterpoint with Bynum. Brief unfussy drum breaks are Melani’s contributions elsewhere whereas the saxophonist’s harsh trilling and the cornetist’s plunger extensions serve to confirm their identities. Like the swing sections there is also warmth in the group’s playing, sections, with Parrini’s Stuff Smith-like pizzicato slashes never preventing him from joining the fluid animation which allows the pieces to amble forward. With reed smears and hand muted brass moans, the final title tune swells into a quick-moving narrative, as additional sul tasto double bass rubs and rat-tat-tat drumming confirm that Parrini’s composition is modern as well as mellow.

Mellow isn’t the first adjective that comes up when dealing with Pliable’s six instant compositions. They are pliable though with the stratum defined by Govaert’s rumbles and pops and the responsive and sometimes buzzing comping from pianist Kristján Martinsson as the bottom layers, with higher-pitched grades involving the snapping picks and echoing inserts of guitarist Marcelo dos Reis, and the capillary bites and popping slurs of trumpeter Luís Vicente. “Elastic” is a standout instance of this as speedy guitar clips vibrate alongside watery blows and spitting growls from the recesses of the trumpet. Brought to a crescendo as keyboard notes respond to guitar strums, the narrative slides to the end on grainy brass slurs. Other instances find scordatura string crunches meeting pops and rebounds from the drums to define a stop-time exposition or on the final “Pliant” similar guitar techniques create spiky theme variations with the bonding finale echoing over keyboard cascades.

Throughout staccato press rolls, hunt-and-peck piano notes, patterning trumpet blows and clinking string frails, combine and divide into dark or light motifs of different tempos and pitches in order to maintain the characteristic paradigm which illuminates the program. At the same time quartet members are knowing enough to include sympathetic contrasts so as to harmonize facets of this particular vision. This occurs during a track such as “Ductile”. Here a quiet introduction with sweeping piano comping and clip-clop drumming hardens into repeated plunges into dissected brass notes from Vicente and keyboard pummeling from Martinsson, only to revert to simpler, more tranquil patter from dos Reis at the end.

Distinctive programs, the two sessions show how the symmetry between concepts and practice can be resolved in striking but different fashions.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Digging: 1. Digging 2. Disk Dosk 3. Transizioni Morbide 4. The Blessed Prince 1st Movement 5. The Blessed Prince 2nd Movement 6. San Frediano 7. The Blessed Prince 3rd Movement 8. Blues P 9. Reflections on Jazz and Blues

Personnel: Digging: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet); Dimitri Grechi Espinoza (alto saxophone); Emanuele Parrini (violin); Giovanni Maier (bass) and Andrea Melani (drums)

Track Listing: Pliable: 1. Supple 2. Malleable 3. The Whippy 4. Elastic 5. Ductile 6. Pliant

Personnel: Pliable: Luís Vicente (trumpet); Marcelo dos Reis (guitar); Kristján Martinsson (piano) and Onno Govaert (drums)