Stephen Gauci/Reuben Radding/Todd Capp The First Third 577 Records 2006
Little playing heard these days is as enigmatic as that issuing from the as-yet under-recorded saxophonist Stephen Gauci. Jimmy Lyons and Albert Ayler are doing battle inside him, Lester Young serving as both spectator and referee. His dynamic range is equaled only by his powers of invention, in both composition and its molten twin, improvisation. While Gauci's contributions often remain most vivid in the memory, the other uniformly excellent players on these two sessions provide more than ample support.
Wisps of an Unknown Face is the more varied of the two, the compositions on offer ranging from post-bop puckishness ("Unless you got Lost ) to unfettered atmospherics ("Wisps ). Gauci's solos corrode as they seduce, quietly tearing holes in the group fabric as the others continually interweave complexities around him. Bassist Ken Filiano and trumpeter Nate Wooley seem to share a refreshing connectivity here, Filiano courting, sliding in and slightly jabbing away at the title track's opening while Wooley grunts and growls assent. Wooley is in especially fine form in the second section of this elusive piece, maintaining cool distance even when Gauci is momentarily engulfed in New Thing rapture.
The First Third plumbs further depths of sound and form. Bassist Reuben Radding, always a responsive and sympathetic player, outdoes himself with some fairly convincing whale song impersonation. It is wonderful to hear Gauci on clarinet and flute, his unique approach given fresh voice in each medium. "Duck Soup is particularly successful, drummer Todd Capp raining down transparent approval while Gauci and Radding erect monuments of counterpoint to...what, the Marx Brothers? Radding drones and swells, Gauci engages in upward flights of arpeggiated fancy and Capp breathes in tandem with them, the trio really lending credibility to the idea of organic improv.
As good as these group efforts are, it's time for a Gauci solo disc to drop. If his solo playing is anywhere close to his accomplishments in a group, he could bring new life to the genre. For now though, anyone unfamiliar with his work need have no hesitation starting with these superb discs.
Tracks and Personnel
Wisps of an Unknown Face
Tracks: Unless you got lost on purpose, you would never get this far; appointment with disappointment; Did you get the secret?; Wisps of an unknown face; Loneliness sounds like That; my death?l going nowhere...and road will do.
Personnel: Stephen Gauci: tenor saxophone; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Ken Filiano: bass; Lou Grassi: drums, percussion.
The First Third
Tracks: The Elephants Are Coming; Duck Soup; The Rabbit Knows; Tales Of Whales; Here It Comes; Here It Is; There It Went; To Be Continued...
Personnel: Stephen Gauci: tenor saxophone, metal clarinet, flute; Reuben Radding: contrabass; Todd Capp: drums.