Luca Luciano: Partenope (2011)
The opening miniature "Rondo Contemporaneo" begins with a melody worthy of George Gershwin but flirts with European folkloric melodies, inspired perhaps by his native Naples. Two equally short fragmenti are contemporary sounding vignettes; Luciano's use of quarter tones and multiphonics, and his meditative, yet vaguely edgy tone, recall veteran Korean avant-garde saxophonist Tae-Hwan Kang's brand of minimalism.
The heart of Partenope, however, resides in two ten-minute sequenze, premiered at Bristol Cathedral in '09. Inspired by Gustav Mahler's line: "A symphony must be like the world, it must embrace everything," Luciano casts his net far and wide, starting close to home, however, by employing the Neapolitan minor scale on "Sequenza #1." Luciano's inherent love of melodydoubtless stemming from his Neapolitan rootsacts like a unifying thread through the twists and turns of the engrossing 9:50, even if the sources of his inspiration are surprisingly diverse.
Romantic Mediterranean melodies and more urgent Balkan folk melodies rub shoulders with contemporary classical expression. The shadows of Ravel and Stravinsky lie under Luciano's sinewy lines, though there are also shades of Bartok's Romanian folk dances in some of the livelier sections, where Luciano's clarinet weaves heady, swirling figures. At around six minutes Luciano's sweetly lyrical improvisation evokes the warm, bebop language of clarinetist Buddy DeFranco's softly swinging blues.
"Sequenza #2 in 'A' Minor" unfurls from a place of melancholy into a sultry Pink Panther-esque blues motif, which in turn gradually evolves into an extended section of contemplative lyricism. Apart from a passage of characteristic southern Italian folk melody, it is a challenge to discern the composed from the improvised, except where Luciano throws caution to the wind in short but exhilarating bursts. Even when seemingly lost in unselfconscious exuberance, Luciano's clarinet is a vector for soaring melody.
"Jazz Impromptu" is Luciano's homage to alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Starting from the slowly stated theme to "Now's The Time," Luciano displays his virtuosity in the upper reaches of his Boehm System clarinet, quoting briefly from Parker's repertoire in between sharp, tumbling runs where every note is clearly accented. The joy of making music permeates Luciano's every phrase on Partenope, and if not quite a one-man symphony, he at least shares Mahler's openness to musical influences. The result is an uplifting musical journey which transcends genres, borders, and time.
Track Listing: Rondo Contemporaneo; Sequenza # 1; Fragment # 4; Sequenza # 2 in "A" Minor; Fragment # 5; Jazz Impromptu (Homage to Charles "Bird" Parker).
Personnel: Luca Luciano: clarinet.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz