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Monome: Monome (2012)

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Monome: Monome How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The Italian innovative jazz group Monome (not the be confused with Spanish rock band The Monomes) makes a reserved yet vigorous statement with its eponymous debut. The session comprises of seven, modal and atmospheric tracks that have strong, western classical influences.

The collaborative trio opens the disc with "Scales"; an almost theatrical piece that sets the theme for the rest of the disc. After Piergiorgio Pirro's brief sonata fragment, Gianpaolo Camplese's fervent drums and Matteo Anelli's angular bass join his delightfully atonal piano. The music transforms into a spirited, free-flowing three- way conversation that borrows equally from free jazz and classical heritages. The "second act" is equally stimulating and also replete with muted tonal colors. Tempo, however, becomes contemplative and the mood expectant, as Pirro's melancholic lines shimmer in silence, punctuated by pizzicato bass and brushed cymbals.

The closing "Inverno" continues the pensive mien expressed in "Scales," but is cooler and more relaxed. Lilting piano, lyrical bass and melodic percussion infuse the air with a palpable nostalgia.

The remainder of the tracks, sandwiched, between the above, include Berlin native Peter Ehwald's smoky tenor saxophone that transforms the ensemble into a quartet. The tight thematic unity, however, is not affected.

"Organ" is reminiscent of art house film soundtracks. Ehwald goes from fast, furious staccato improvisations, urged on by Camplese's polyphony, to longing and meandering notes that flow over Pirro's mellifluous keys.

On the somber "Catville," Anelli's thrums and Camplese's thuds create the feel of empty city streets sprinkled with the rain from Pirro's edgy piano, while Ehwald's breathy tenor blows like a gentle wind. Pirro's intricate solo progresses from modernistic variations to a jazzier, intimate late night musings.

This close sympathy among the musicians is a defining trait of the recording. On the wistful "Southbound," Pirro's ebbing explorations lead to Anelli's heady and sweet bass strings, thick with expression and emotion, while Camplese's enigmatic, rolling drums underscore Ehwald's eloquent embellishments of the melody.

This Pisa/Berlin based outfit has produced a unique work with Monome, an ambient disc, to be sure, but one that does not lack substance. Its intriguing compositions, the high caliber musicianship of the instrumentalists, and their exemplary camaraderie, make the record simultaneously accessible and thought-provoking.

Track Listing: Scales; Organ; Southbound; Anthem; Koshigaya; Catville; Inverno.

Personnel: Piergiorgio Pirro: piano; Matteo Anelli: bass; Gianpaolo Camplese: drums; Peter Ehwald: tenor saxophone.

Record Label: Konnex Records


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