The progressive-meets-jazz nexus has traversed many incarnations since its inception in the heady mid-late 1960s with Soft Machine and Caravan being two classic exemplars of the Canterbury wing of Prog. All were characterised by their adherence to the rock element of prog, whilst embellishing it with jazzy overtones. This tack is at odds with bands populated by seasoned jazz musicians who migrated to a jazz rock idiom, including the likes of Nucleus and If. There were obviously variations in the degree of jazz (or rock) that such bands incorporated into their repertoire. There were also stylistic variations within the timelines of those bands, as with Soft Machine, starting as a psychedelic outfit and progressing through several personnel changes to an out and out jazz group (cf Soft Machine Six). Caravan seemed to go the other way, having benefitted from jazz saxophonist Jimmy Hastings on early albums such as the much underrated If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You but later becoming more rock-oriented.
Taking this genre into this century, Möbius Strip seems to straddle the line between prog and jazz quite deftly. The tunes are not as labyrinthine as albums by bands like Egg and yet they never degenerate into an obligato miasma. The tempo and key changes in "Bloo" are fairly typical of the rest of the album. The songs are invariably characterised by an upbeat energy, and save for some minor seventh interventions midway, there is little resemblance to the occasionally maudlin quality of Soft Machine. Take "Déjà Vu" for example, beginning with a bright piano vamp, it exudes a positive, even uplifting presence, consolidated by saxophone and organ as the tune develops. The breezy "First impressions" continues this cheerful theme whilst the slower "Call It A Day," the shortest track at just less than three minutes, is dominated by reflective pastoral piano, concluding with elegant glissando bass guitar.
In an Iberian-evoking style, "Andalusia" opens with piano, recalling some of Chick Corea's many allusions to Spain. Developing its complexity and time signatures as it progresses, it's buoyed by a keen tenor solo and a sharp snappy ending. The final, title track is a bouncy number benefitting from a lyrical, hypnotic head and Eros Capoccitti turning in a sinuous solo on bass guitar.
The members of Möbius Strip, all in their twenties, hail from Sora, a town just outside of Rome and the music on the album is composed entirely by its keyboardist, Lorenzo Cellupica. This eponymously titled album happily eschews self-indulgence and yet doesn't pander to simplicity. The tunes are lively, memorable and jazzy in a progressive kind of way.
Bloo, Déjà Vu, First Impressions, Call it a Day, Andalusia, Möbius Strip
Lorenzo Cellupica: piano, organ, synth
Nico Fabrizi: tenor sax, alto sax, flute
Eros Capoccitti: electric bass
Davide Rufo: drums