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Giovanni Guidi/Gianluca Petrella/Louis Sclavis/Gerald Cleaver: Ida Lupino

Mark Sullivan By

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This largely improvised quartet project is built upon the improvisational rapport of Italians pianist Giovanni Guidi and trombonist Gianluca Petrella. In addition to their work in trumpeter Enrico Rava's band—they appear together on Tribe (ECM, 2011)—they have worked as a duo which seeks encounters with fellow improvisers. Here they are brought together with American drummer Gerald Cleaver and French clarinetist Louis Sclavis, for a set of music that is extroverted and atmospheric by turns.

There is no bass, but the first half of the program is distinguished by its clear rhythmic orientation. Even the improvised pieces sound like a jazz band, with a pulse that is as regular as a group with a bass. "Just Tell Me Who It Was" features a snaking Middle Eastern clarinet line from Sclavis. The title tune is one of Carla Bley's most memorable compositions, and this performance serves as both an 80th birthday salute to the composer and a tribute to the late pianist Paul Bley, who popularized the tune. There is an especially memorable version on his classic solo piano album Open, To Love (ECM, 1973). The quartet turns in a wonderful performance, perhaps equal to any of the previous recordings. It is followed by the other cover, a version of "Per i morti di Reggio Emilia (To The Dead of Reggio Emilia)" the protest song by Turin singer-songwriter Fausto Amodei.

"No More Calypso?" is the light-hearted title of the first of the more abstract improvisations, the sort of atmospheric collective playing frequently heard on ECM recordings. "Rouge Lust" presents a quiet conversation in which the players take turns: almost a series of solo passages, each responding to the one before. Sclavis sits out for the last part of the program. Guidi, Petrella and Cleaver play slowly building textures on "Things We Never Planned," "Fidel Slow" and "Hard Walk." "Zweig" finds Petrella's trombone accompanied by Guidi rumbling on the inside of the piano: so textural that it is hard to identify the source. "The Gam Scorpions" closes the set on a lyrical note, with Cleaver's drums rejoining the duo.

Another improvisational ECM triumph. The Italians had played previously with Cleaver, but Sclavis had never met the other musicians prior to the recording sessions. The approach was completely open, and it brought out the best in this group of players, both individually and collectively.

Track Listing: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Just Tell Me Who It Was; Jeronimo; Ida Lupino; Per i morti di Reggio Amilia; Gato! La Terra; No More Calypso?; Rouge Lust; Things We Never Planned; Fidel Slow; Hard Walk; Zweig; The Gam Scorpions.

Personnel: Giovanni Guidi: piano; Gianluca Petrella: trombone; Louis Sclavis: clarinet, bass clarinet; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Title: Ida Lupino | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: ECM Records


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