AVA Trio: Digging the Sand

Karl Ackermann By

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In 2017 the AVA Trio released their debut album Music from an Imaginary Land (Tritone Records) and promptly made their mark by earning spots on several year-end polls. That inaugural release was a unique amalgamation of ethnic influences and free improvisation. With the release of Digging the Sand, the group continues to mine the imagination and avoid the cliché-riddled and well-worn paths.

Amsterdam-based baritone saxophonist Giuseppe Doronzo has a background that includes jazz improvisation, classical and non-western music. He has composed for choreographer Cora Bos-Kroese and performed with saxophonists Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks and trumpeters Paolo Fresu, Ralph Alessi and Taylor Ho Bynum, Vince Mendoza, Han Bennink, NDR Big Band, and many other notable artists. The native of Barletta, Italy played with American saxophonist and clarinetist Michael Moore's Bigtet, a group that included keyboardist Kaja Draksler. Soon after, he formed the experimental quartet Falga, and—in 2015—his AVA Trio. Doronzo's 2018 solo saxophone release Goya (Tora Records) again garnered year-end honors.

Zurich-born Pino Basile is a new addition to the AVA Trio and the percussionist brings an unusual array of resonances to the group. Like Doronzo he has an enormous range of musical experiences having worked in jazz, classical, theatre music, dance, and contemporary circus theatre. A researcher and teacher, he shares his knowledge of Mediterranean region percussion wherever the opportunity presents itself. On Digging the Sand Basile plays the tamburello (tambourine), bedir (a frame drum) and the cupaphon, a tuned friction drum with an astounding range of sounds. The latter is found in the music of four continents; made from a variety of materials it is—in Basile's hands—a proxy for strings, reeds, and less identifiable sounds.

Turkey's Esat Ekincioglu has been playing bass since his pre-teen years and has worked across genres as diverse as heavy metal rock and Turkish pop music. Relocating to the Netherlands in 2011, he studied at the Prince Claus Conservatorium in Groningen and won a major European talent competition as a soloist. A prolific performer, he has toured throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the US. Confirming his credentials for this non-conformist group, he also records and performs with the improvised jazz-punk-psychedelic quartet Kuhn Fu.

This is an exceptional and carefully studied collection, enhanced by collective and individual improvisations. Doronzo wrote six of the eight pieces on "Digging the Sand" with Ekincioglu contributing "Tosun" and "Kacti." The music is as mesmerizing as it is intricate. The baritone oozes warmth and edginess simultaneously on "Tosun" and "Cala di Turchi," the latter a blend of Mediterranean and western styles nicely augmented by the bedir and a deep, woody bass solo. Inspired by the local elements of air and water, "Vento di Ponente," is a piece with rudiments of Balkin dance interwoven with AVA's idiosyncratic instrumentation. Doronzo's title track suggests something darker as it creeps along with subdued effects that wrap up with the halting but disconcertingly soulful baritone. He takes up the Egyptian double-reed mizmār for the middle section of "Distanze," a piece whose pace modulates from languid to break-neck speed, and back again.

The Mediterranean region is steeped in an array of ethnic sounds and the music on Digging the Sand is appropriately full of dichotomies; it is exotic even while being grounded in fundamentals of Western and non-Western music. It is immersed in dreams, mystery, and melancholy but with moments of intensity that suggest whirling dervishes. Doronzo, Ekincioglu, and Basile are erudite and virtuosic guides, navigating through these rich and diverse sonic surroundings.

Track Listing

Cala Dei Turchi; Espero; Fadiouth; Digging the Sand; Tosun Kacti; Ayi Havasi; Anamoni; Distanze.


Giuseppe Doronzo: baritone saxophone, mizmar (8); Esat Ekincioglu: double bass, prepared double bass (4); Pino Basile: percussions, cupaphon (4).

Album information

Title: Digging the Sand | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Marocco Music



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