br/> Giovanni Guidi, Gianluca Petrella, Louis Sclavis, Gerald Cleaver - Ida Lupino
(ECM 2462. CD Review by Peter Slavid)
This fine quartet was brought together initially by Italians Giovanni Guidi (piano) and Gianluca Petrella (trombone) who added the French virtuoso Louis Sclavis (clarinet and bass clarinet) and American drummer Gerald Cleaver.
Guidi and Petrella both play in Enrico Rava's band, but this is a more improvisational setting. Petrella's trombone in particular manages to rumble, growl, squawk and shout on occasions, as well as being lyrical at times. Sclavis is rather under used, only appearing on about half the tracks. That's a shame because his snaking, often middle-eastern lines make a valuable contrast to the trombone.
The interesting thing is that I didn't really notice the absence of a bass. Cleaver's rhythms, often playing with mallets, provided a strong pulse throughout.
Light and shade are an important element of this CD. Several tracks start with simple piano chords – often with Cleaver providing a heartbeat in the background. As the volume and the pace pick up, the trombone and/or clarinet will start a melody, and then improvising as the track builds to a crescendo, before subsiding back to the basic rhythm. I particularly liked the longest track Gato, where the tension builds up to the point of allowing the trombone a really good shout before sliding into the background and allowing the piano to finish with a delicate melody.
The title track, by Carla Bley, also starts with the simple piano chords with Sclavis providing the initial melody before Petrella contributes a short improvised section. Another stand-out track is Just Tell Me Who It Was, in which Sclavis contributes a terrific solo.
Other tracks such as No More Calypso have a much free-er structure with all four involved in the improvisation – but always in good taste, just a bit restrained – and if I have a criticism I would have liked to hear them let rip a bit more.
Despite a good percentage of improvisation, that restraint makes this a most accessible CD that I enjoyed on first listening and which grew on me over subsequent plays.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a radio programme of European jazz at www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz