Stephen Gauci: Absolute, Absolutely and CIMP 360: Circle This

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Stephen Gauci Quartet
Absolute, Absolutely

Michael Bisio Quartet
CIMP 360: Circle This

More than 250 recordings have been issued on producer/owner/impresario/liner notes writer Bob Rusch's CIMP label. You can imagine how that number of sessions would result in a broad range of creative improvisation from variously sized groups and all manner of instrumentation; from stark minimalist free jazz to straight-ahead melodicism and everything in between. Despite a well-established reputation for quality, however, and a substantial quantity of titles available, many of the artists Rusch champions are under-recognized, even in jazz circles.

In the notes to Absolute, Absolutely, Rusch says that tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci had gone unrecorded to age 35. That doesn't make Gauci (born 1966) an elder statesman, but it is surprising that a player with his creative energy and melodic sensibility has managed to reside so long in the margins. Gauci leads a pianoless trio (completed by old pros Ken Filiano on bass and Lou Grassi on drums, along with relative youngster Nate Wooley on trumpet) through a program of tightly composed and seriously performed originals. A rewarding, easy interplay among the musicians and a feeling of camaraderie comes through Gauci's compositions. Wooley's casual brilliance and controlled passion perfectly complements Gauci's individuality of tone and cut after cut, Gauci instinctively balances the heart of the song with its inherent improvisational limits.

Gauci plays one of the tenors in bassist Michael Bisio's pianoless quartet heard on CIMP 360: Circle This, a session characterized by a palpable tension that, according to Rusch's liner notes, flared up in the band during recording. "Its Own Universe," a duo exchange between Gauci and the second tenor, Avram Fefer (who doubles on soprano), builds to a feverish back-and-forth but stops short of overblowing. "Nitro, Don't Leave Home Without It" lives up to its name through an outpouring of ideas from both horns and irrespective of tempo, the band leans in. There's more intensity in "By Any Other Name" than in a dozen other run-of-the-mill jazz performances and after "The Fighting," any peace this rough-and-tumble band finds is well earned.

Tracks and Personnel

Absolute, Absolutely

Tracks: No Good Asking Me, I Won't Speak; Absolute, Absolutely; Who to Hear? (Who Hears?); Mistake After Mistake; Nothing Back Here (I Can't Find a Thing); Like the Earth Always Under; Wei Wu's Way; Beautiful This Fake Dream.

Personnel: Stephen Gauci: tenor saxophone; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Ken Filiano: bass; Lou Grassi: drums, percussion.

CIMP 360: Circle This

Tracks: Circle This; Its Own Universe; By Any Other Name; Island Circus; Times That Bond; Nitro, Don't Leave Home Without It; The Fighting; CRT.

Personnel: Stephen Gauci: tenor saxophone; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Ken Filiano: bass; Lou Grassi: drums, percussion.

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