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by Ian Mann

December 15, 2006


A welcome change to find genuinely exploratory music that makes the listener welcome on the journey.

Earlier in the year I reviewed the excellent album “Out” (Silta Records SR 0401), a series of improvisations by bassist Giorgio Dini and saxophonist Carlo Actis Dato. Dini now returns with a trio consisting of himself on bass, Gianni Lenoci on piano and Markus Stockhausen on trumpet and flugelhorn. The latter is the son of the experimental composer Karl Heinz Stockhausen.

Dini is quite clearly fully committed to the improvisational process. Whereas “Out” featured it’s protagonists improvising within a framework of original ideas and compositions this trio record takes things a step further. They do not make use of written music or pre-determined ideas and would appear to have created all the music on “Ergskkem” from scratch. Although the trio had never performed as an ensemble before the results are surprisingly melodic and listenable.

There are six improvisations on the album and they are presented in the order in which they were recorded so that the development of the character of the trio can be followed.

The title track opens the proceedings and is the shortest piece on the album. It is delicate and songlike featuring the mournful ring of Stockhausen’s trumpet and the gentle touch of Lenoci at the piano with Dini’s resonant bass as the anchor. Stockhausen has previously recorded for the German ECM label and there is something of the atmosphere of an ECM release not only about this piece but also about the album as a whole. The use of space and the sense that you can almost hear the players thinking is reminiscent of the ECM aesthetic.

Growing in confidence after this impressive start the trio then immerse themselves in the ambitious “Events Of Birds”. This clocks in at over fourteen minutes and is comfortably the album’s longest track. Mysterious and brooding it is a masterpiece of mood building and features the rich, dark sounds of Dini on bowed bass. Lenoci embraces the whole range of the piano from delicate ice splinter tinklings to low register rumblings with dampened strings. Stockhausen’s pure trumpet tones float over this dense backdrop, with the air of melancholy never far away.

“Yes Skkem” continues this mood with Dini again using the bow early in the piece. Lenoci’s piano probes in a slightly more conventional manner and Stockhausen adds his characteristic sound.

“Only Blue Feet” ebbs and flows with Stockhausen’s distilled high register trumpet picking out a melody line before dropping out to make way for a fascinating dialogue between Lenoci and Dini. After Stockhausen’s return there is a passage for solo piano. This piece is always changing and is consistently interesting.

“Moorland” features Dini’s muscular pizzicato bass and a more aggressive style of playing from Stockhausen.

The closing “Crackers” signals a return to the song like form of the title track. To all intents and purposes this is a ballad with Stockhausen’s warm flugelhorn, Lenoci’s limpid piano and Dini’s simpatico bass. There is an air of Zen like calm about the piece and it is all rather beautiful.

Taken as a whole “Ergskkem” is an excellent album. Despite the improvisational aspect of the music a spirit of melody and lyricism is apparent throughout the trio’s output. A remarkable chemistry arose between the three musicians and this has produced some fine interplay and moments of intuitive beauty. There is a certain symmetry about the album with the simple beauties of the first and last tracks framing the spikier improvisations in between.

Much free improv can alienate through tunelessness and cacophony. It is a welcome change to find genuinely exploratory music that makes the listener welcome on the journey.

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