It takes a confident saxophonist to step out in the classic trio formatno chordal instrument or frontline partner to share the load, just a strong trust in one's own skill and the backing of his bandmates. There's no one to hide behind, and everything is out in the figurative spotlight even when all three are sharing the load. For the Nicoló Ricci Trio, the setting isn't an intimidating one, but stimulating and full of possibilities. Their skill and chemistry are enough to carry the day and produce a sound both tricky and listenable.
The pace of Pulcino is largely leisurely, though that doesn't quite mean the affair is a subdued one. Some jaunty skittering drum beats go a good way toward balancing out any feeling of languidness. Ricci's tone is strong and assured, sometimes sharply capering up and down scales, more often spinning lines that color the space without necessarily filling it. When Giuseppe Romagnoli and Andreu Pitarch shade in the rhythm foundation and step up for their occasional features, it's with the same understated approach to supporting the whole. A few improvised interludes just make things a little bit odder with not-really-arbitrary noises and clatters.
Without much variety in the instrumental format, Ricci's pieces still handily avoid any monotony: there's some lonely under-the-bridge meditation here, some bluesy skronk there, a consistent focus on melody throughout the more technical spots, and a give-and-take between the players that's always interesting to follow. A slinky minor groove can get broken up by unexpectedly sunny riffing. A sedate sax line may suddenly find some brisk-simmering rhythmic work emerging underneath. These performances don't settle into any obvious patterns; it's more an exercise in the subtle sound of surprise.
Track Listing: The Superfluorescent Boy; Andreu; Dinosauri Verdi e un Cavallo Bianco; Giuseppe; Roy Sullivan; Nico Miao Bau Miao; Casam(ia); Come Vuoi Che Stia, Nicolò?!; Conception; Te T'an Vu Ste Cun Me.
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