Carla Marciano is a child prodigy who grew up to be a serious-minded jazz musician. Even her choice of instrument is uncanny and remarkably prescient. Both alto sax and sopranino sax she wields with a natural grace and ease that can mark the musicianship of someone who has played it devotedly for many decades longer than she has been playing' it's pure genius at play, liberally peppered with unmitigated inspiration.
Carla hails from, lives in and works at Salerno near Naples in Italy. She, like an increasing tribe of intellectually refined jazz musicians, teaches music whilst playing at gigs all over Europe, especially at jazz festivals and jamming with internationally acclaimed maestros from US and other places where jazz is more dominant, more entrenched. This does not mean jazz in Italy is a freak phenomenon, for the reviews and liner notes on her jazz cd tell us otherwise: the jazz scene is pretty as much vibrant as in any similar developed nationa statement that's roused my personal inquisitiveness a notch higher than usual.
Her jazz CD: Trane's Groove
is a collector's item. Ostensibly dedicated to the memory of the late master of saxophone and one of the very few stalwarts in serious jazz who left his immortal mark on entire course of jazz history. Coltrane's whip-lashing style and innovative ideas in jazz improvisation pretty much laid the foundation for Free Jazz to followwith some musicians going off into more exotic territories like avant-garde, and some making Free Jazz their life-force, their station in life as it were. Carla seems to have thrashed out her own course through the woods, and makes it a pleasure for us to accompany her on a fanciful sortie now and then.
She shows her professional acumen and sagacity by selecting the right tunes, the right personnel to make up her small but powerhouse combo, just the right balance of melody, harmony and improvisation which form the backbone of any such intellectually stimulating exercise. The title tune "Trane's Groove" one of her own compositions, kicks off the proceedings on a very lively note: the ensemble here sounds almost as if Coltrane has been reincarnated into the shapely and attractive form of an Italian young lady, whose sax appears to be an extension of her body: not an artificial appendage, but a lively and expressive member.
Her unshackled improvisational outbursts on the second tune: "As Usual", again penned by her, takes the listener's breath away. There's a typical European touch to her post-modern hard bop style here, the sort of highly polished and intellectually uplifted style that is reminiscent of Jan Garbarek at his best. Carla's lyricism shines through every number like a lighthouse submerged under water of several streams, for that's what here sidekicks areeach one of them rushing in a helpless gush to keep pace with her restless march towards lofty ends. Before she signs off with her composition, rather simplistically entitled "Bye Bye Trane" she provides five more pieces: each one a juicy morsel, each one a self-expanding treasure within itself. One of the most remarkable number is "India Moods", wherein she has blended seamlessly, some inspired sitar sounds and a bit of almost devotional singing from someone sounding uncannily like Ustad Shujad Khan.
Carla chose to enter our world too latedecades after John Coltrane passed away. This fact brings to my mind at least, some of the very poignant observations made by the humorous American poet Ogden Nash: So many I love today were not born when so many I loved were alive...
what wonderfully explosive combination would have Carla and Coltrane made, if they had met each other! The mind shrinks at the enormity of such an imagined encounter. Power to you, Carla, may you reach and scale effortlessly the highest peaks in your musical career.
Till next month, cheerio!