Italian Instabile Orchestra: Skies Of Europe (ECM 1543)

Italian Instabile Orchestra
Skies Of Europe

Pino Minafra trumpet, megaphone
Alberto Mandarini trumpet
Guido Mazzon trumpet
Giancarlo Schiaffini trombone, tuba
Lauro Rossi trombone
Sebi Tramontana trombone
Martin Mayes French horn, mellophone
Mario Schiano alto and soprano saxophones
Gianluigi Trovesi alto saxophone, clarinet, alto and bass clarinets
Carlo Actis Dato baritone and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet
Daniele Cavallanti tenor and baritone saxophones
Eugenio Colombo alto and soprano saxophones, flute
Renato Geremia violin
Paolo Damiani cello
Giorgio Gaslini piano, anvil
Bruno Tommaso double-bass
Tiziano Tononi drums, percussion
Vincenzo Mazzone tympani, percussion, drums
Recorded May 1994 with the White Mobile, Auditorium F.L.O.G., Florence
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Steve Lake

Reductively speaking, Skies Of Europe is significant for welcoming reedist Gianluigi Trovesi into the ECM fold. More broadly, we find in this second record from the 18-piece Italian Instabile Orchestra a potpourri of stimuli that only hints at the significance of this democratic collective in its formative live settings, which helped spark a renaissance in Italian jazz. The group, founded in 1990, sports a lush yet angular sound that is exciting down to the marrow. True to form, it offers up two longish suites as showcases of hidden shadows and the talents that cast them.

Bassist Bruno Tommaso paints half of this diptych with his Il Maestro Muratore (The Master Mason). The open, golden sound rings of epic fantasy, spilling glitter and feathers like birds diving into waterfalls as drums light the way for deeper abstractions. Sections range from declamatory (“Squilli Di Morte”) and insistent (“Corbù”) in mood to the gentler persuasions of “Merù Lo Snob.” The latter’s formative vibes from piano and reeds kiss the air with promise, veiling sensual developments in the politics of breath. With vivacious resolve the music spreads in these directions and more, leaving but a silhouette and a clue.

The title suite, composed by pianist Giorgio Gaslini, sets its phasers to meditative in the opening section, “Du Du Duchamp.” This ponderous tenure at the casino swaps the former’s chips for ornately patterned pips, the violin’s Ace of Spades the most florid of them all. So begins a roving gallery of allusions, gambling higher stakes in “Quand Duchamp Joue Du Marteau” to translucent effect, letting out a Pifarély-like cry in “Il Suono Giallo,” and traipsing through the forested “Marlene E Gli Ospiti Misteriosi” on the heels of a stunning baritone, which stumbles like Little Red Riding Hood into the wolf’s open jaws. “Satie Satin” is a delightful palate cleanser with shrill arco touches, while “Masse D’urto (A Michelangelo Antonioni)” is as emotionally turgid as the cinema of its dedicatee. A manipulated trumpet spools the anthemic “Fellini Song” in an old dusty theater, petering into fadeout.

The IIO is an attentive and responsive unit—so much so that by the end of this performance the names of individual players (as brilliant as they are) cease to matter. In the midst of this acticity we are but bystanders at the roulette table, watching as that little white ball bounces from red to black until it settles on…

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