It's been five years since woodwind multi-instrumentalist Gianluigi Trovesi and accordionist Gianni Coscia made their ECM debut with In Cerca de Cibo. For their third duo album, Round About Weill, Trovesionce again sticking with clarinetand Coscia step into a more singular concept. Whereas In Cerca de Cibo drew from sources as diverse as Italian folk music and pianist John Lewis, the latest effort celebrates the music of the often misunderstood 20th Century composer Kurt Weill.
That doesn't mean, however, that this new recording is any less broad in scope. Weill was considered something of a curiosity, having produced both "serious modern composition and more "lightweight works for stage and screen. That there's any consideration given to this as a subject worthy of academic study might imply there are scholars out there with too much time on their hands. Good music is where you find it, and while Weill's later works had unquestionably wider popular appeallike so many of the tunes from Broadway shows that have found their way into the Great American Songbookthat doesn't make them any less significant or worthy of attention.
Thankfully, Trovesi and Coscia are both accomplished players who also believe that there are no barriers in music, and that good music can come from as simple a source as an archival folk tune or from a place of more complex composition. They may be serious improvisers, able to get to the core of any piece and expand its horizons, but they're also artists whose tongues are sometimes firmly planted in their cheeks. The ambitions of Round About Weill may seem lofty, but the recording is just as much about having fun, and while there are moments of sublime beauty ("Aber dieses ganze Mahagonny ), there are equal moments of delightful absurdity ("Mahagonny, Scene 4 and "Alabama Song ).
In addition to the Weill compositions, most of which come from his three-act opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonnyalthough there's also a melancholy reading of "Tango Ballade, from Weill's more well-known The Threepenny OperaTrovesi and Coscia collaborate on a number of compositions that demonstrate such a reverence for Weill that identifying them, for those who aren't intimately familiar with the Weill pieces, becomes an exercise in futility. And their sense of humour remains intact; there are overt references to the pop tune "Blue Moon on "Round About Weill II, with an excerpt from the French round "Frère Jacques showing up elsewhere in the programme.
While Trovesi and Coscia demonstrate their capacity for more abstract dissonance on the improvised piece "Improvvisamente, the disc remains eminently approachable. The whole of Round About Weill, despite being sourced from a number of places, has the distinct feeling of a unified score, making it a worthy followup to the equally focused In Cerco di Cibo. Filled with memorable melodies, this recording pays homage to a great composer in a distinctive and highly personal fashion.
Track Listing: Dov'è la città; Ach, bedenken Sie, Herr Jack O'Brien; Tango Ballade, Improvvisamente; Divagazioni su "Youkali"; Mahagonny, Scene 6; Ein Taifun! ... Tifone? No, pioggerella!; Lieben; Boxen; Round About Weill I/Denn wie man sich bettet, so liegt man; Mahagonny, Scene 13; Essen; Round About Will II; Tief in Alaskas schneeweißen Wäldem; Ach, bedenken sie, Herr Jack O'Brien, var.; Mahagonny, Scene 4; Alabama Song, var.; Interludio "Ma che modi sono? ..."; Cumparsita Maggiorata; Tristezze de Fra'Martino; Denn wie man sich bettet, so liegt man.
Personnel: Gianluigi Trovesi: piccolo and alto clarinets; Gianni Coscia: accordion.