This recording is entitled Ida Lupino after Carla Bley’s iconic song. It is also a winning exploration of written, sketched and improvisation of intriguing and music by the Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi, trombonist Gianluca Petrella, clarinetist Louis Sclavis and drummer Gerald Cleaver. It is impressive to imagine anyone actually following such conceptual virtuosity, much less creating the seamless, seemingly organic layers of sound that this quartet lays out over structurally precise melodies, celebrating the spatial dimensions of their (the pieces’) nature, their meditative rhythms laced with the gratuitous flowing sensuality of 21st century contemporaneity and impelled by a fascination found in harmonic objects.
The musicians write in a style that is at once complex , yet ultimately eminently accessible and piquant, clearly structured , yet free and full of fantasy. Each of the contributors has an uncommon knack for moulding works of vital expressive content. The repertoire spans over an hour of music recorded in 2015 in Italy and reveals all four performers’ skill in the stylistic practices of this time and space and inventive in terms of rhythmic displacement and unusual turns of phrase. Moreover, the intertwining of a lower brass instrument in the form of Petrella’s trombone, and the clarinet as played by Sclavis makes for a kind of cross-hatched pattern of tones and textures that lace the chromatic flights of Guidi’s piano, all of which is held in harmonic suspension by the rhythmic authority of Gerald Cleaver’s drums. Their playing is the essence of refinement, with every phrase and balance carefully considered, yet freely expressed. It is as if kindred spirits have come together through the subtle elegance of Guidi’s piano, the shapely sensitivity of Petrella’s trombone and Sclavis’ clarinet, with Cleaver’s anchoring of melody and harmony in Jazz so polyrhythmic that a clear, regular beat rarely emerges. And yet the songs’ narratives are revealed with breathtaking inventiveness.
The listener’s interest is peeked right from the get-go; from “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” which lives up to its enlightening title in the way the thematic images evolve throughout the score. In “Per I Morti Di Reggio Emilia” the metamorphoses– both concrete and abstract and philosophically informed – are subtly achieved, with many cross references and tweaks that add fresh resonance to the original ideas that may have prompted the narrative of this score in the first place. “No More Calypso” and “Rouge Lust” – both with detailed input from all members of the quartet – put a rousing spin on meter; the latter also is a dynamic study in myriad harmonic worlds. “Ida Lupino” is a masterful recreation of Bley’s famous piece and features many moments of vivid illumination and pure musical joy. By the time you get to fascinating poetry of “The Gam Scorpions” the full extent of precise and detailed sound, with a 360 degree range of dimensionality emerges and creates exciting dramatic frissons. It’s just the kind of thing you’d expect from musicians who live for going beyond the pale.
Track List: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Just Tell Me Who It Was; Jeronimo; Ida Lupino; Per i morti di Reggio Emilia; Gato! La Terra; No More Calypso? Rouge Lust; Things We Never Planned; Fidel Slow; Hard Walk; Zweig; The Gam Scorpions.
Personnel: Giovanni Guidi: piano; Gianluca Petrella: trombone; Louis Sclavis: clarinet, bass clarinet; Gerald Cleaver: drums.