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There are no signposts to direct towards great free improvisation recordings, because there are no scenic overlooks where it's possible to pull over and take a snapshot or buy a postcard before heading to the next tourist attraction. To take in a recording such as Garden Of Gifts, it's necessary to stand back and take in the wholethe same way the Grand Canyon has to be viewed.
Garden Of Gifts was recorded in May at drummer Federico Ughi's house in Brooklyn. Born in Italy, Ughi moved to the US in 1999 and has been a best known for his work with the likes of Daniel Carter, Steve Swell, William Parker and Ras Moshe. His playing partners are up-and-coming improvisers trumpeter Kirk Knuffke and guitarist Chris Welcome. Knuffke's quartet released Bigwig (Clean Feed, 2008) to positive reviews and the versatile musician has worked with both the avant-garde Butch Morris and pop star Josh Ritter.
The music mushrooms from organic and simple parts. All four tracks ease into meaning, with Ughi setting the scene. Much of the territory explored is without a constant pulse or rhythm. And each track unfurls without sounding rushed, mostly spare affairs with seemingly no space needing to be filled with extra notes. The drummer appears to guide this outing through its mystical paths. Not one single moment is chosen as a pinnacle, but the bent guitar notes, slurred trumpet passages and cymbal tracings give the recording very rich textures.
Track Listing: In The Vernacular; Gratitude Time; Fall Expanded; Inner Void.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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