In cerca di cibo

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Gianluigi Trovesi & Gianni Coscia
PERFORMER: Gianluigi Trovesi (clts), Gianni Coscia (acc)
CATALOGUE NO: 543 034-2

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Last year, Gianluigi Trovesi, now in his fifties, won ‘Best Musician’ in Italy’s top jazz magazine, Musica Jazz. He is also a member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra, one of the most famous jazz ensembles in Europe. Gianni Coscia is in his late sixties and was a highly successful banker, but since his retirement he has devoted himself to the accordion which he had been playing as an amateur.

Coscia is also a lifelong friend of Umberto Eco, the novelist and academic, who wrote the excellent booklet notes. Trovesi and Coscia have been working together intermittently for some years and enjoy an almost magical rapport. Here, they are on the genre-bending cutting edge, leavening their jazz roots with references to classical, folk and popular music.

The title track, which means ‘In Search of Food’, was written by the late Fiorenzo Carpi, a famous composer of soundtracks and songs, possibly as a tribute to Trovesi, who once said: ‘When I play, I behave a bit like when I eat. I like nibbling here and there.’ There are five more performances of Carpi pieces, some fine compositions from both musicians, and a soulful version of John Lewis’s ‘Django’, which eventually transmogrifies into an Italian folk tune, before reverting to its original identity.

The playing throughout is really compelling and the music ranges from the haunting tenderness of the title track, to Trovesi’s exhilarating ‘Minor Dance’, and the hilarity of their performance of the popular Piedmontese song ‘Celebre mazurca variata’, which includes ‘Tiger Rag’ and ends as a kind of circus dance. The two men conjure up an astonishing variety of sounds and atmospheres and all their work seems heartfelt.

This is music for the 21st century, unclassifiable but thrilling. Donny McCaslin is in his early thirties and already a consummate musician with a refreshing melodic flair. He’s also an excellent composer with his own genre-bending faculty and his eight compositions have terrific variety.

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The title track, inspired by Olivier Messiaen’s music, begins as a brooding ballad but erupts into a passionate affirmation. ‘Second Line Sally’ has a New Orleans dancey-dancey snare drum rhythm and is joyfully funky. ‘These Were Palaces’ has a spare, mysterious theme and hypnotic atmosphere. The rhythm section is exemplary and the performances and solos of the quartet are totally absorbing.