When the personnel credits on an album list more than four times as many instruments as players, it's almost certain that said recording will be an interesting ride; it's also likely be met with pre-listening scepticism by those who question the wisdom, cohesiveness and musicality inherent in we-play-everything outings. The "everything but the kitchen sink" path is fraught with peril, but drummer/percussionist/conceptualist Claudio Scolari has figured out how to make it work, survive and thrive.
Scolari and Daniele Cavalca are each responsible for a laundry list of instruments. Both men cover percussion, piano and synthesizers at various times, but that's where the overlap ends. Scolari holds exclusive rights to the drumming and (infrequent) flute work, while Cavalca covers bass, melodica and vibraphone. The leader's gifted offspring, Simone Scolari, sticks with trumpet throughout the recording, capable of providing a bluesy melodic beacon in a sea of uncertainty ("Synthesis"), delivering chilling, riveting work ("Fragments Of Autumn") or rocking out atop a steady groove that lapses into some piano and trumpet call-and-response ether ("Rebirth").
Claudio Scolari and company dip into free jazz waters, but never completely immerses itself there. A sense of rhythm, melody or harmony is apparent at every turn, but all three might not exist at the same time. Brief swells and clattering percussion swarm around a pleasing trumpet riff in one place ("Synthesis"), while two men convincingly create the illusion of an exploratory piano trio in another ("Dialogue"). Industrial music merges with tropicalia, as a Thelonious Monk-like riff briefly drops in for good measure on "Rituals," while the true artistic brilliance of this trio shines on the moody "Fragment Of Autumn."
While it's certainly a cliché, it's not inaccurate to say that Synthesis lives up to its name. Claudio Scolari blends styles, blurs lines and makes compelling music throughout this impressive outing.
Track Listing: Synthesis; Expression Of Image; Dialogue; Rituals; Fragment Of Autumn; Rebirth;
Hymn Of The Inventions.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.