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Spontaneity in music doesn’t have to come at the cost of order. In other words, Janis Joplin was wrong when she sang “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Saxophonist Joe Giardullo’s return to music 12 years ago at the urging of his friend and musical partner Joe McPhee has resulted in the rediscovery of two of creative music’s modern giants.
Their last recording, Shadow & Light (Drimala 2002), recorded while the events of September 11 were unfolding, is an eerie and beautiful commentary on the fragility of our life on this planet. With Now Is, Giardullo assembles the same cast plus drummer Tani Tabbal for more virtuous music making.
The disc opens with fifteen and a half minutes of firebrand playing. Tabbal and bassist Mike Bisio jet into a straight hard groove that urges McPhee and Giardullo to play catch up. They respond with passionate runs of energy. About halfway through the opener, the rhythm section pulls the emergency brake, testing their mates' attentiveness. What follows is a dissection and introspection with an energy wave bowed solo by Bisio and some nifty hand drumming. This title track reminds one of playing the entire side one of an LP of "new thing" jazz circa 1969.
The rub comes when you realize there are six more tracks and plenty of music to follow.
Giardullo assembles the quartet three more times, twice engages a trio, and finally the last track, a processional duo “Close” by McPhee’s somber flugelhorn with Tabbal’s mallets.
While nothing reaches the intensity of the title track, the remainder of the music focuses on separating the different musical parts for an amazingly clear recording. Joe McPhee skids his pocket trumpet across the dancing bass lines of Bisio on “SCINT,” while Giardullo sails over the entire affair.
These players have the ability to convey a visceral sense of emotion and ordered freedom (not an oxymoron) in their playing that is effortless for listeners to respond to.
Track Listing: Now Is; Spin; Conference; SCINT; O.A.O.L.; Spring Theory; Close.
Personnel: Joe Giardullo - Soprano Saxophone; Joe McPhee - Pocket Trumpet, Soprano Saxophone,
Flugelhorn; Mike Bisio - Contrabass; Tani Tabbal - Drums, Djembe.