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Francesco Turrisi: Songs of Experience

Ian Patterson By

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Pianist Francesco Turrisi's first two albums as leader, the classically influenced jazz of Si Dolce e il Tormento (Diatribe Recordings, 2009) and the more brooding, improvised Fotografia (Diatribe Recordings, 2011) were united by Turrisi's mostly spare voice as much as they were by the folk, classical and jazz threads from which he draws inspiration. Here, Turrisi plots a strikingly minimalist course, playing seemingly fewer notes than on his first two releases combined. With trumpeter/flugelhorn player Fulvio Sigurta the dominant voice, Turrisi orchestrates the ebb and flow of this highly melodic, hypnotic bassless trio.

Drummer Joao Lobo—who has collaborated with trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Giovanni Guidi—showed on Fotografia that he plays more like an improvising percussionist than a conventional drummer and his very unpredictability is a key element in the trio chemistry. While Lobo's subtle atmospherics are keenly felt throughout, the main rhythmic pulse often stems from Turrisi's compelling ostinatos. This set-up is heard and felt to great effect on "Nel Mezzo"; Turrisi's motif never wavers for the full six minutes, conveying almost Hitchcock-esque suspense under Sigurtà's sweetly melancholic melody, while Lobo's wonderfully impressionistic accents rustle and stir like an unexpected breeze.

"Uppon Lamire"—an anonymous 16th century keyboard piece—is a gently voiced duet between Turrisi and Sigurtà and acts like a coda to "Nel Mezzo," fading out teasingly. "Le (Lullaby for Aoife Naima)" begins as a tender ballad with Turrisi's susurrus lyricism central; an edgier vein gradually intrudes, with trumpet sounding strident and piano and drums restless, before Sigurtà and then Turrisi restore calm by revisiting the pretty opening melody. Sigurtà's muted drawl of a solo on "Incubo n.1" is peppered with squeaks, growls and kissing noises. Lobo's slow rhythm and Turrisi's prodding of the piano innards lend atmospheric support and the whole thing conjures a heat-drunk desert caravan.

"Toccata Arpeggiata nello Stile Cromatico" is a mouthful of a title for a lovely, classically influenced piece for piano and trumpet, with Lobo's pressed rolls a rumbling sotto voce presence. The striking "Incubo n.2" is based around Turrisi's succession of single notes and Sigurtà's mournful melody, though Lobo's minimal interventions—drum and cymbal shots in isolation—have an undoubtedly dramatic effect. "Incubo n.3" is a darker piece, with muted trumpet, damped piano strings and percussive rummaging creating unease.

"Birth"—an intoxicating slow blues—stems from a simple piano motif and Lobo's gently employed mallets. Turrisi's solo—his most extended of the set—is spare and haunting; Sigurtà's blues-drenched phrasing is bolder, but for the most part pianist and trumpeter converse in intimate, compelling manner. With hints of the Middle East, the Maghreb and medieval choral tradition, the episodic "Canto" shares a little of Lebanese oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil's penchant for mining the confluence of influences where diverse cultures meet. Melodic and dynamic, there is however, no clue that a delightful coda follows a full minute of silence at what appears to be the song's end.

With deeply personal music that is at once serene and edgy, soothing and yet always emotionally engaging, Turrisi has crafted an original work that is simply sublime.

Track Listing: Nel Mezzo; Uppon Lamire; Le (Lullaby for Aoife Naima); Incubo n.1; Toccata Arpeggiata nello Stile Cromatico; Incubo n.2; Birth; Incubo n.3; Canto.

Personnel: Francesco Turrisi: piano; Fulvio Sigurtà: trumpet & flugelhorn; João Lobo: drums.

Title: Songs of Experience | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Taquin Records


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