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The Brasserie Trio's Musique Mèchanique is a rare treat: three master musicians with verve, imagination, and even a sense of humor. Working without a rhythm section, the three horn men here have such a strong sense of time that they can move easily from swing to rubato and back, and a bassist or drummer is never missed.
Many of the tracks start out as one thing and end up delightfully as something else - or vice versa. The opening numbers is a case in point. "1935," credited to trumpeter/flugelhornist Alberto Mandarini, is actually a collection of licks and motifs that will be immediately recognizable to anyone who's listened even a little to Duke, Basie, Fletcher Henderson, or to any of the heavyweight bands of the Thirties. They're not arranged in any particular order, and don't really get going in tempo until the closing moments of the track, but the playing of these three musicians has so much gravity that they're able to hold it together, bouncing the licks off one another, commenting on and replying to the previous one, in a way that's truly absorbing.
The ways the musicians find to interact are ceaselessly interesting. Carlo Actis Dato, a musician of almost incredible power, limits himself largely to a rhythm role on many tracks, as his lower register instruments perhaps gravitate naturally to such a role. On bass clarinet on "Il Calypso di Gustavo" and "Ile de Gorèe," he plays with extreme sensitivity to the others and allows trombonist Lauro Rossi and Mandarini to shine. On many of the tracks all three begin together in a set rhythm, only gradually breaking into their own high wire acts. Actis Dato, freed up on baritone on "Gigi" and quite strikingly also on "Habanera," contributes some pyrotechnics of his own. He begins in rhythm on baritone on "Guarda come s'offrono," but clearly is driving the other players and upping the ante on several occasions, drawing appropriate responses. "A Craxi in Tunisia," meanwhile, contains just fleeting references to "A Night in Tunisia," and instead spins out with wild control into other directions.
Meanwhile the music also runs a gamut of emotions, from the sweet "Doussika" to the jolly "1935" to the arch, Latinate "Ma l'amore no." A great, completely enthralling disc, played by three great musicians. Highly recommended.
Track listing: 1935 / A Craxi in Tunisia / Il Calypso di Gustavo / Gigi / Ile de Gorèe / Guarda come s'offrono / Habanera / Musique Mèchanique / Doussika / Ma l'amore no / Kambo Kafé / Pedacito
Alberto Mandarini, tpt, flghn, perc, vcl; Lauro Rossi, tbn, vcl; Carlo Actis Dato, b cl, ts, bari s, vcl.