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Achille Succi: Lyrical and Free

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Most readers, if the name Achille Succi means anything to them at all, might recognize it from two albums led by guitarist Samo Salamon, Kei's Secret and Ornethology, and another led by drummer Jaka Berger, BRGS Time.

Succi is largely self-taught, and it shows in his fearlessness, spontaneity and by having a style that is modern, quite personal and not tied down to any one style. He is free enough to play anything and yet always maintains a sense of structure on both the small and large scale, thus remaining accessible.

In that he plays multiple reeds (alto saxophone, bass clarinet and clarinet), Succi might be likened to an Italianate incarnation of saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann: in his wide-ranging musical curiosity and in projects that have an enticing freedom about them but which are coupled with lyricism.

Below are five projects from the last four years, three as the leader or co-leader, two others as a sideman or as part of a cooperative.

Achille Succi/Salvatore Maiore

Pequenas Flores Do Inferno

El Gallo Rojo

2006

From the first notes of the plaintive wail that is the motive for "Otokogokoro," to which are added bass notes that weave around a pedal point, always threatening to become harmonics, Succi and bassist Salvatore Maiore announce that this record, the title of which translates as "Small Flowers From Hell," is special.

The music is mostly duo improvisations from musicians who know each other well, since Maiore has recorded before on Terra and Shiva's Dance. No track is over five minutes, so that each track's mood and emotion is kept as intense as possible.

Succi is always a melodic player and hence even his free improvisations contain motivic phrases that help create a structure. Indeed, the strength of the music lies in the structure that supports these twelve striking miniatures. Even a piece that starts out as loosely as "Hypnopotamo," with its barely audible, breathy low notes, has a fairly clear developmental arc, and contrasts nicely with the lightly swinging and hopping "Astroglide."

Maiore plays a masterful solo introduction on his composition "Virus," and is answered by an extremely intense Succi on alto saxophone, while on the closing "Settembrini" Succi creates an unearthly sound for a line that has echoes of the opening track and which by the end almost evokes tears.

Fabulous music that will entrance for every single second of its forty-four minutes.

Achille Succi

Terra

Splasc(H) Records

2006

With instrumentation consisting of trombone or tuba, bass or cello and bass clarinet or alto saxophone, Terra spends a lot of its time in the lower registers as Succi uses music to create images and moods of nature in the first suite, "Terra." The "Flatland" suite gets its inspiration from the wonderful book by Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland, A Romance Of Many Dimensions.

The first track, "Le Sette Piante Dell'Autunno," sets the mood for the "Terra" suite, sounding like a miniature tone poem that bathes us in the plants and sun of autumn. "La Foglia Del Linguaggio" is full of vibrant life and might just be the way a leaf would speak if it could. "Una Nota, Una Vita" starts off with a line that could be from plainchant played in unison by bass clarinet and bass, before it becomes the ground for a gorgeous muted line from the trombone.

Each of the rest of the evocative tracks in the suite mines a different emotion, the connection to which, even if one understood Italian, might not be clear. The "Flatland" suite starts with the bleak "Lineland," and might be trying to create the feeling of the claustrophobia of one dimension. Its answer, "Flatland," is much more open, and could represent the extended space on a plane as opposed to a line.

"Bill Frisell," which ends the record, is dedicated to Frisell and Alfredo Impulitti and aims to evoke Frisell's ethos rather than anything specific about his sound.

A delightful album, full of emotion and surprises.

Synapser/Giancarlo Tossani

Coherent Deformations

Auand

2006

Succi is the front line and main soloist in this high energy but reasonably accessible modern jazz. The dynamic music has clear, developed motifs and driving rhythms that will get you moving. Synapser, which is led by composer/pianist Giancarlo Tossani, is a very tight group and the interplay between not only Succi and Tossani but also the rhythm section of bassist Tito Rantzer and drummer Cristiano Calcagnile, is a delight to hear unfold.

Stylistically quite varied, Tossani uses some electronics and both Succi and Rantzer sometimes make sounds rather than play notes. However, each piece has a rigorous developmental logic that is easy to follow.

The center third of the album, "Sounds For Swimming," "The Fog" and "Hip Hop Zero Up And Down" provides a good example of the group's flexibility. The first piece is an extended collage, held together as always by motifs, of vaguely water-related music with very exciting rhythmic underpinnings. "The Fog" (by John Carpenter) is a two-minutes long, beautiful and atmospheric piece that acts as a cleanser for the ears. Despite the title, "Hip Hop" does not descend to that level of simplicity, but rather builds to a much more complicated groove with Succi flying above it all.

Put this on when you need a pick-me-up. Terrific.

Achille Succi

Shiva's Dance

Artesuono Productions

2003

With its different instrumentation, which includes Ralph Alessi on trumpet and Andrea Dulbecco on vibraphone, Succi leads this quintet through ten of his compositions, including "Bill Frisell" (also heard on Terra, above) and "Anthropofagy" (also heard on Puntolinea, below).

Once again, the music is quite free but with strong structures that give the ear something to hang onto. "Anthropofagy" references bebop through its line before twisting it into a modern pretzel, while "Pocahontas" has a delightful melody, that you can hum, and clear harmony to support it.

"Night Lines" has a line whose shape feels like early Stanko, but is mixed with Italian sunshine, while "Momo" and "Momo Reprise," dedicated to Succi's wife Silvia, have a romantic, late-night feel.

Modern and wide-ranging, this earlier Succi effort still has his stylistic markings, despite being more conservative than his later (and earlier) efforts and can be viewed as a link between Succi's work on Terra and Puntolinea.

Atman

Puntolinea

Bassesfere

2003

Atman is a collective and the label Bassesfere was founded to give the musicians complete control over their music and its distribution.

Perhaps because of the freedom allowed, Puntolinea contains much music that would be labeled experimental—the structures are much looser and there is an "anything goes" kind of atmosphere. "Faccio Ceruchi Con La Mente" and "No Pigeons Here!" are free improvisations, as is "Northern Lights," which is credited to drummer Mirko Sabatini.

While the title tune starts with a pretty pointillist treatment on toy piano, it evolves into a high energy piece with Succi sounding a bit like Rudresh Mahanthappa in timbre and intensity. "Anthropofagy" is given a much rougher treatment than on Terra, while "Il Valzer Del Ricordo" has a very simple guitar and piano waltz accompaniment to Succi's floating saxophone.

Altogether an exciting and extremely interesting recording, Puntolinea impresses and the adventurous listener will find much in which to become submerged.

Tracks and Personnel

Peqeunas Flores Do inferno

Tracks: Otokogokoro; Soulblade; Panterana; Night Lines; Hypnopotamo; Astroglide; Virus; KY; Rosa; Fedifragola; Giubek; Settembrini.

Personnel: Achille Succi: bass clarinet, alto saxophone.

Terra

Tracks: Terra Suite: Le Sette Piante Dell'Autunno; La Foglia Del Linguaggio; Una Nota, Una Vita; Tavor Il Magnifico; This Is Disease; Una Noche Con Ti; Nel Regno Di Tavor Il Magnifico; Fresh Flesh. Flatland Suite: Lineland; Flatland; Solo Per I Tuoi Occhi; Pope Dope; Bill Frisell.

Personnel: Achille Succi: bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Beppe Caruso: trombone, tuba; Salvatore Maiore: double bass, cello; Roberto Dani: drums, percussion.

Coherent Deformations

Tracks: Translated Rooms; Flush Lush; Beauty So Difficult; Sounds For Swimming; The Fog; Hip Hop Zero Up And Down; Band Up Art; Musicascope; Double-Face.

Personnel: Achille Succi: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Giancarlo Tossani: piano, keyboards, laptop; Tito Mangialajo Rantzer: double bass; Cristiano Calcagnile: drums, objects.

Shiva's Dance

Tracks: Anthropofagy; Bill Frisell; Shiva's Dance; Momo; Pocahontas; Morpheus; Night lines; Ping pong; Eu Gosto; Momo Reprise.

Personnel: Achille Succi: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Andrea Dulbecco: vibraphone; Salvatore Maiore: bass; Massimo Manzi: drums.

Puntolinea

Tracks: Puntolinea; Anthropofagy; Miricucco; Seria Blu; Faccio Cerchi Con La Mente; Northern Lights; Il valzer Del ricordo; No Pigeons Here!; The Wave Is Coming; Gregorio.

Personnel: Alberto Capelli: electric, classical & toy guitars; Fabrizio Puglisi: piano, toys, objects; Mirko Sabatini: drums, electronics; Achille Succi: bass clarinet, alto saxophone.

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