Thursday, November 30, 2017

Francesco Cusa Trio Meets Carlo Atti ‎– From Sun Ra To Donald Trump (Clean Feed, 2017)

The titles of the album and the tracks may betray a sly wit, but make no mistake, this is serious business, and the band which consists of Carlo Atti on tenor saxophone, Simone Graziano on piano, Gabriele Evangelista on bass and Francesco Cusa on drums are a rock solid modern jazz group. The meeting of the established trio with the impressive saxophonist allows sparks to fly, beginning with "Adam Smith Counts Every Penny" which opens spaciously with subtle bass and percussion and with gentle tenor saxophone completing the group improvisation. The track begins to get a little more feisty with tightly wound saxophone (pleasantly reminiscent of Steve Coleman in nature) leads the group into an exciting and fast paced collective improvisation. They stretch out nicely and develop a firm grasp on progressive improvisation, developing the tune as if it were a living entity. The music comes tumbling out on "Economic Boom And Stasis In The Capitalistic Illusion" with peals of saxophone arcing across fractured rhythm, marking a spontaneous unfolding of musical ideas. Atti's saxophone lays out and the rhythm section is fleet in his absence, before everything come back together for an episodic collective improvisation. The music weaves in and out of spacier sections confidently which allows the dynamic nature of the music to be felt, and the nearly sixteen minute long track never lags. "Deficit In The Economies Of The Black Jazzmen In The Sixties" is certainly a provocative title, and the band uses it as a springboard to look at post-bop jazz through a modern lens. Cascading notes of piano are met by long rending tones of saxophone, while a spiky rhythm flows through the heart of the performance. Piano chords dance lightly through a feature for Graziano, like bright raindrops, and the patient reentry of the saxophone is perfectly timed, weaving his sound gradually into the overall context. There is an engaging piano trio melody to "Delivering A Load Of Musical Boxes To Wall Street" that is warm and inviting, and they expand the palette of the performance by adding saxophone while keeping the light melodic structure of the composition. The rhythm section is playing very well, with a heart-on-sleeve eloquence that is quite appealing. The main event of the second half of the album is “Sun Ra vs. Donald Trump (Wrestling Bout, Refereed By Roland Barthes)” a performance that brings together all of the disparate strands of music the group had been weaving leading up to this point. The group develops an episodic almost suite like nature in the music which ebbs and flows, alternating squalls of fast and free music with the abstract development of space and solos popping up as the music evolves in a graceful manner. This was a very good small group modern jazz album, with the addition of a socially aware concept. Protest music in jazz goes back to “Strange Fruit” and beyond, and this album makes valid commentary available without taking away from the inherent power of the music itself. From Sun Ra to Donald Trump -

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