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Premuda Grillini Dalla

Blues Explorations

by Ian Mann

August 02, 2006


Behind the sonic bluster he has written many fine tunes several of which are featured here.

This enjoyable release appears on the Italian record label Silta and features the Bologna based trio of Guido Premuda on guitar, Gilberto Gallini on bass and drummer Alessandro Dalla. Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not a straightforward album of pedestrian “woke up this morning” blues boogie. It is entirely instrumental and sees the trio negotiating a series of modern jazz compositions that take the blues as their starting point. Of the album’s twelve tracks there are only three originals by members of the group. The remainder of the compositions come from real jazz heavyweights such as Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny.

The core of the album however revolves around the compositions of Ornette Coleman who provides five of the album’s tunes so it can be seen that the trio are tackling some pretty challenging material. There is also a theme running through the album in that each of the twelve pieces is in a different key thereby exploring all the keys in the scale of Western musical notation. They are certainly aiming high.

On four of the tracks soprano saxophonist Stefano Scippa augments the core trio. He is featured on the album’s opening number Coleman’s “Turnaround” with its tricky but memorable melody. This tune sets the template for the album featuring Premuda’s effortless fusion of blues and jazz guitar and Grillini’s solid but nimble bass. Grillini is equally at home as a soloist or performing the Charlie Haden anchor role. Dalla is a firm but imaginative drummer and Scippa’s dancing soprano cuts through the rhythmic complexity to sketch the melody line.

The trio stick with Coleman to cover “Tears Inside” and “Ramblin” the latter featuring some excellent arco bass from Grillini presumably inspired by another Ornette’s former bassists, the late David Izenzon.

Yet another Coleman tune follows in the form of “Broadway Blues” which also has a fiendishly complex but instantly memorable tune. Pat Metheny has been a long-term admirer and sometime collaborator of Coleman (Song X). “Broadway Blues” which Metheny covered on his debut album “Bright Size Life” has been a favourite of Metheny’s for years and was for a long time a staple of his live performances. The trio here make a fair job of it but the heavy backbeat of the drums fails to match the subtlety of Bob Moses performance on “Bright Size.”

Scippa returns for the McLaughlin segue of “Follow Your Heart/Binky’s Beam” his keening soprano picking out the melody. Premuda also contributes an ambling, conversational guitar solo. The intricacies of “Binky’s Beam” allow for some great ensemble playing from all four musicians.

The saxophonist remains on board for an excellent stripped down rendition of the Charles Mingus classic “Better Git It In Your Soul”. There is more excellent playing here from Scippa and Premuda and especially Grillini whose authoritative and muscular bass echoes Mingus himself.

Premuda’s brief “Blues Exploration” is the most straightforward piece thus far and is a showcase for his blues drenched guitar.

Miles Davis’ “All Blues” marks the final contribution from Scippa. His exploratory soprano gives way to Premuda’s relaxed guitar which combines his blues leanings with something of a Metheny influence. Scippa then returns to improvise on the main theme.

Grillini’s original “Quasi Blues” is again brief and is a relatively straightforward blues jam for the trio led by Premuda’s guitar and underpinned by Grillini’s huge bass sound.

The trio return to the “Bright Size Life” album with a cover of Metheny’s composition “Missouri Uncompromised”. I suspect that a love of this aspect of Metheny’s music may have been the initial spark for this project. Metheny has a large and vociferous following in Italy and two of the Coleman tunes tackled by the trio earlier have also been covered on record by Metheny. “Broadway Blues” has already been mentioned but “Turnaround” appeared on Metheny’s “80/81” album.

The final Coleman piece “Blues Connotation” sees the trio veering towards free jazz territory as they improvise around Coleman’s somewhat abstract theme. Premuda is at his most inventive but the rhythm section also acquit themselves admirably on this challenging piece.

Premuda and Grillini share the compositional honours on the closing track “PGD Blues”. It is the strongest tune of the three originals and incorporates blues, rock and jazz elements and gives a little nod in the direction of their mentors Coleman and Metheny.

Premuda, Grillini and Dalla together with Scippa should be congratulated on this record. The material they have taken on is very challenging to play but at the same time it is very familiar to a large number of listeners. It could be argued that given the quality of the material they couldn’t go far wrong but I feel that it is a tribute to them that they have still made it sound fresh and exciting. They have pushed the boundaries of these classic compositions in the exploratory spirit alluded to in the album’s title. Their love and enthusiasm for this music shines through and the standard of musicianship especially from Premuda and Grillini is very high. It may not be a substitute for the originals but is highly enjoyable nevertheless.

The blues and rock elements of the playing may even attract curious listeners who are not necessarily familiar with the works of the original composers. This is certainly a good way to introduce new listeners to the work of Coleman whose uncompromising and full on approach can come as something of a shock to the uninitiated. Behind the sonic bluster he has written many fine tunes several of which are featured here.

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