Biagio Coppa: Anastomosi (2007)
Italian saxophonist and composer Biagio Coppa writes about his project, Anastomosi: "Both the name of this project venture and those of the various pieces in the CD, are jokes that arose from a chance conversation about the meaning of certain terms contained in a medical glossary. But you know however, how serious games can be sometimes and how they can unexpectedly stimulate new ideas. For Anastomosi, a word that Coppa defines as "roughly, connection, he brings together some cutting edge purveyors of improvised music, including trumpeter Ralph Alessi and bassist Drew Gress as well as Shane Endsley on drums (known to most as a trumpeter). The end result is an album that is indeed playful, jagged, wonderfully composed and yet with enough space to allow the expert improvisers assembled here to do their thing.
The first, and title, track twists and turns with fast-paced shifting of ensemble colors, jagged melodies and polyrhythmic counter-lines pulling the listener along like an undertow that eventually dumps them out into the piano solo by Matt Mitchell. "Notala begins with a purposefully imperfect call and response between Alessi and Coppa, eventually bringing Gress up into the foray as a third voice, the band transitioning into a gyrating 19/4 solo section. Alessi is a musician who you can count on to be in tune with what needs to be played to help move from point A to point B while remaining fresh and surprising, something he demonstrates with his transition back into the solo groove of this piece.
As an eleven-minute song, building up "Notala to a break after five-and-a-half minutes of intense music is just the kind of compositional decision on behalf of Coppa that makes this album fit together so well. The first half of the piece gives time for the band to pick up dynamic complexity with multiple solos and ample ensemble interplay. The break gives the listener a chance to pull back in with their concentration, so that Alessi's solo is not lost in the mix of the previous two and gives the ensemble itself a little push to climb back up to a higher intensity.
"Periplo opens with some evil bass and drums duo playing, Gress always catching the sharpest edges of Endsley's drumming. The piece moves into an erratic, multi-layer head with freely improvised lines running underneath and between. Coppa improvises with as much of a consciousness for ensemble sound as he composes with, leaving space for his backers to rise to the fore in just the right places like a chef using spices to accentuate the main course. "Cronassia is dynamically much similar to "Periplo, but featuring Rhodes to change up the timbral mix. "Batmotropo has wide-open spaces left in the rhythm section, leaving room for the improvisers to speak their mind.
Track Listing: Anastomosi; Notala; Periplo; Cronassia; Batmotropo.
Personnel: Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Biagio Coppa: saxophone; Matt Mitchell: piano; Drew Gress: piano; Shane Endsley: drums.