Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto: Fugace (ECM 1827)

Fugace

Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto
Fugace

Gianluigi Trovesi alto saxophone, piccolo, alto clarinets
Beppe Caruso trombone
Massimo Greco trumpet, electronics
Marco Remondini cello, electronics
Roberto Bonati double-bass
Marco Micheli double-bass, electric bass
Fulvio Maras percussion, electronics
Vittorio Marinoni drums
Recorded June 2002 at Next Officine Meccaniche Studios, Milan
Recording engineer: Marti Jane Robertson
Assistant engineer: Guido Andreani
Mixed at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Konshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Gianluigi Trovesi is a maverick in ECM’s stable. His ear for melody and, above all, aesthetics makes him a perfect fit for the label and a standout among its crowded roster. The Italian multi-reedist and composer has, it seems, always had his fingers in many pies, yet consistent to his flavor has been the acidity of celluloid. Indeed, Trovei’s penchant for cinematic atmospheres is a running theme throughout his work on all scales, but nowhere more so than on Fugace. The album’s tasteful admixture of noir, new wave, and expressionist “imagery” enables a deep journey to take place for the open-minded listener. Black-and-white figures shake hands with old-time jazzmen and sultry Technicolor beauties alike—all of them bound to a code of traditional and popular European elements. The latter serve to clear all distractions and highlight the diasporic nature of each genre sampled therein. These elements and more come together in what essentially amounts to a fantasy soundtrack, for it needs no film in order to find focus. Rather, moving pictures would be a hindrance to this music, already so robust in its evocativeness that a screen would be just that: something in the way.

The psychedelic electronic refrain of opener “As strange as a ballad” smacks of a dream sequence, Trovesi’s clarinet the psychoanalyst with an ulterior motive hovering at its periphery. Between this and the follow-up, “Sogno d’Orfeo,” there is already much to admire. The latter’s swanky air opens wispily before floating along the avenues of times past in vintage clothing, clutching worn-out hopes all the while. Sampled harpsichord runs add clink and spatter to this astute rollick, as also to the four “Siparietti,” or entr’actes, that pepper the album’s second act. Each turns a similar motif into a corkscrew of Baroque energy just waiting for the right moment to spawn. The title track performs the same trick, replacing one impact with another.

The “African Triptych” is an indisputable highlight of the program, moving across swaths of landscape in smooth and easygoing melodies. The musicianship is at once careful and carefree, the composing likewise. The second section, “Scarlet Dunes,” unveils a refreshing turn from alto, plying that middle range with all the depth of a sailor dropping anchor. Trovesi manages to scrape the horizon with his fingernails and reveal the gessoed backing. His screeching works wonders here and hereafter, and enhances the band’s subconscious qualities.

Of said band, one can hardly say enough. With Trovesi in the lead, it includes two bassists, two percussionists, a cellist, trombonist, and trumpeter. Its recipes expand upon the minimal ingredients of Trovesi’s chamber projects, and the decade of experience that comes to the table here is detectable in every course. The incorporation of electronics is an ingenious touch, resulting in a hybrid that is as much nu jazz (cf. the dancing breakbeats of “Clumsy dancing of the fat bird”) as Vivaldi; at times haunting (“Canto di lavoro”) and at others parodic. “Blues and West” fits squarely in the vein of parody. Fronting gritty electric guitar work over a smooth bass line and hip blowing from the horns, it gives off whimsical pheromones to be sure. Trovesi’s nod to W. C. Handy, “Ramble,” is another fascinating mélange of eras and styles, shifting John Zorn-like from Dixieland to free jazz in the blink of an eye. The rhythms are totally on point and keep us locked into every chameleonic change. Further along, the whitewash of “Il Domatore” dovetails the beauteous desolation of a William Basinski loop with the hard post-bop of a Dave Holland joint. Its arc goes into hiding until it touches ground in “Totò nei Caraibi,” which pulls the mournful final credits like a curtain in reverse.

Of all possible genres to have been referenced here, neo-realism remains unacknowledged, perhaps in fear of its own reflection. That its hard-won lessons might jump out and startle us at any time is part of the appeal of Fugace, which quells those urges with tightly wound lyricism and colorful appeal. Another masterstroke from Trovesi and his circle.

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2 thoughts on “Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto: Fugace (ECM 1827)

  1. ECM seems really to be happening in Italy these days! I don’t know what they’re doing south of the Alps, but I hope they keep it up. The young musicians are frighteningly skilled and thoroughly imaginative in their artistry. The Siparietto miniatures really grabbed me in their consistency and variety. The harpsichord was shocking! I defy anyone to count Siparietto I.

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