Giovanni Guidi piano
Gianluca Petrella trombone
Louis Sclavis clarinet, bass clarinet
Gerald Cleaver drums
Recorded February 2015, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: September 2, 2016
Since making his ECM leader debut with 2013’s City of Broken Dreams, Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi has paved a new path with every release. For Ida Lupino, he convenes Enrico Rava bandmate and virtuoso trombone player Gianluca Petrella, clarinetist Louis Sclavis, and drummer Gerald Cleaver for a set built almost entirely on improvisation. Two exceptions are the album’s eponymous tune by Carla Bley, which here receives an ode-like treatment in celebration of its composer’s 80th birthday, and “Per I Morti Di Reggio Emilia,” a song written by Fausto Amodei in memory of demonstrators who fell victim to police violence on July 7, 1960. The latter’s guttural trombone and persistent cymbals rekindle those political fires as warmth against the frigid climate in which we now find ourselves.
At the heart of this session are Guidi and Petrella, who among the quartet share the longest working relationship. Their spotlight shines brightest in “Gato!” This nearly 10-minute narrative reveals itself one sentence at a time, toeing a line drawn by cymbals with dialogic abandon, before ending in a lullaby of piano. This same combination begins the album in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” and ends it in the tactile stumble of “The Gam Scorpions.” Notable for its subtle shadings is “Hard Walk,” throughout which Petrella focuses on breathing over notecraft as primary method of communication. He and Guidi row their most fascinating waters, however, in “Fidel Slow” and “Zweig.” These distinctly three-dimensional duets write their own dictionary as they go.
Sclavis’s reed work, as always, abounds with invention. Whether roaming the desert of “Just Tell Me Who It Was” with plenty of groovy water to spare or exchanging bon mots with Petrella in the witty “Jeronimo,” he treats virtuosity like breathing. Further highlights include the fibrillated “No More Calypso?” and “Things We Never Planned.” The latter might as well have been the title track, showcasing as it does the band’s willingness to go wherever the music leads. Guided by intuition alone, they make no effort to understand anything but the moment, eschewing concrete rhythms for liquid assets.
An altogether worthwhile peek into minds that always seem to be expanding into the next motif before the current one is finished.