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Franco D'Andrea, Franco Tonani, Bruno Tommaso.: Modern Art Trio

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Franco D'Andrea, Franco Tonani, Bruno Tommaso.: Modern Art Trio
The line-up of the Modern Art Trio was finalised in 1969 when bassist Bruno Tommaso joined pianist Franco DAndrea and drummer Franco Tonani. They stayed together until 1972, releasing one album, Modern Art Trio (Vedette Records, 1970). The album became a landmark recording. It was a best seller in Italy and influential throughout Europe. Following the discovery of the original analogue tapes, the album has undergone impressive audio restoration and mastering by sound engineer Jeremy Loucas at Sear Sound Studio B (New York).

The front cover of the album bears the words "progressive jazz," a clear indicator of the musical direction and experimental intent at play here. It left behind swing, harmony and beat to focus on 12-tone technique and seriality, producing music that would be labelled as free jazz. There are six tracks. three written by D'Andrea, two from D'Andrea and Tonani, and a cover of George Gershwin's "Ain't Necessarily So."

Having recorded over 200 albums, D'Andrea is one of the most famous Italian jazz musicians. He has worked with musicians of the calibre of Dave Liebman, Kenny Wheeler and Gato Barbieri. In addition to piano, he also plays saxophone on this recording. Tonani began writing his own compositions, working as an arranger on many European projects. He also plays trumpet here. Tommaso has also played with many major US artists and is well-known as an arranger and conductor of jazz orchestras.

Album opener, "URW," begins with light piano phrases before Tonani and Tommaso drive the pace and rhythm forward. D'Andrea's unrelenting bursts of piano mix occasional melodic phrases with rapid spontaeous flurries. The bass fragments and the drums thrash, improvisational ideas appear and quickly vanish while the timings pause and vary. In contrast, "Frammento" has flowing piano together with excellent bass from Tommaso, framed in a harmonic structure with bluesy hints. The track could comfortably sit on a 2024 piano trio album. The twelve minutes of "Un Posto All'Ombra" allows experimental use of mournful saxophone and trumpet together with arco bass before D'Andrea's electric piano moves to a more melodic passage before the trumpet and saxophone return.

The structure of Gershwin's "Ain't Necessarily So" is pulled apart and re-phrased making it almost unrecognisable. The track is driven by relentless piano improvisation and drum and bass solos. Among the shifting time signatures, "Echi" has fast bluesy piano flurries and a solo from Tonani. "Beatwiz" has piano and bass interlaced around a theme. Arco bass then introduces an experimental passage featuring Tonani on slide whistle. This is the only part of the album that has not aged well. D'Andrea's saxophone takes over to finish.

Despite being labelled as "free," D'Andrea followed a number of principles in bringing a rational structure to his improvisational ideas. Tonani brought diligent attention to detail and texture. Tommaso guides with fluency with the bow and in his exchanges with the piano. Ideas are exchanged, creative freedom is encouraged and structures fervently broken down. This example of daring experimentation and contemporary expression from the early 1970's is sometimes complex, but is an intense and worthwhile experience

Track Listing

URW; Frammento; Un Posto all'Ombra; It Ain't Necessarily So; Echi; Beatwitz.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Franco D'Andrea: electric piano, soprano sax; Franco Tonani: trumpet, songwhistle.

Album information

Title: Modern Art Trio | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: GleAM Records


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