The opening 30 seconds of this exploration of the Time Continuum belies the power of the music that follows. A Cross-European Venture is a selection of pieces, mainly from the pen of pianist Sid Hille, more than ably assisted by a thoroughly competent Italo-Finnish gang of four.
Hille's credentials have been accumulated over a 30-year career that has taken him all around the shores of northern Europe and beyond. Graduating in 1993 in Holland, Hille took up a teaching appointment in the small Finnish coastal town of Kokkola, where he soon established contacts throughout the Nordics. That this CD was mixed by ECM veteran, engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, in Oslo can be explained by Hille's Scandinavian networking. More intriguing is the inclusion of the Italian trio fronted by saxophonist Massimo Carboni. Probably known best from his work with Tim Hagans on 41st Parallel (Nagel Heyer, 2005), Carboni has a long career in Italy, and has been playing in the Woodstore Quintet alongside the same rhythm section as on this CD, with Paolo Spanu on bass and Gianni Filindeu on drums.
The album's intent, according to Hille, is to "challenge the boundaries of space and time by integrating the concepts of various European traditions and musical eras." This involves the writer reaching back into his own canon for "Canción de Consuelo," recorded originally with his Platyplus Ensemble, as well as The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever." The other eight tracks, disregarding the throw-away opener "Wild (To Live and Tell the Tale)" form a body of shifting, persuasive pieces on which all players shine in tandem with their colleagues, and the music running the gamut from that opener to the penultimate "Petals" (inspired by Ezra Pound's 2-line poem "In a Station of the Metro": "The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough."
The music is often aching, always lyrical and always executed with panache and finesse. If it takes collaboration across 15 boundaries of Europe, thinking of the most direct land routes between the countries involved, then hats off to the EU. More likely, it has a lot more to do with Hille's own artistry, especially his humorous and inspired writing, and dedication to his profession. As Ringo Starr would have concurred, "You know it don't come easy."
Wild (To Live and Tell The Tale); Canción de Consuelo; Time Continuum; Conversations in the Ditch; Strawberry Fields Forever; Kantri/Raga; Leonie; Night Shift; Hanna; Petals; Lyrical (Say Nice Thanks and Go Home)