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Takla Makan is a desert in Northwest China, which is purported to be bleak and uninhabited as the landscape comprises little else than sand dunes. Perhaps a metaphor for these improvisational specialists emanating from Italy.... Here, the trio of Massimo Falascone, Filippo Monico and Giancarlo Locatelli explore vast regions of sounds via deeply conversational dialogue as the wide open terrain of the desert parallels the boundless musical routes, generated by these master improvisers.
This recording reflects pieces performed with guest musicians throughout 1994,95 & 96’. On “Ants”, vocalist Simonetta Artuso improvises atop Locatelli’s somewhat haunting presentation on Bb clarinet as Falascone’s alto sax and Monico’s free-style drumming converge and convey distinct personalities. Tracks 3-6 were recorded in 1995 as the gifted bassist Barre Phillips lends a helping hand while the musicians often engage in friendly improvisational banter. Phillips’ brief spurts and brilliant arco bass work proves yet again why he is one of the premier modern bassists in modern jazz and improvised music. On “Shamo” the foursome are intuitive and articulate as Giancarlo Locatelli’s piccolo clarinet is a gas! Falascone’s deep husky and throaty baritone sax work is a perfect foil for Locatelli’s light-hearted clarinet phrasing on “Carovana Lunatica”. Recorded in 1996, the 16-minute piece titled, “Lop Nor” features Fabrizio Spera on drums and amplified objects. At times the music quiets down to a whisper where all of the intricacies and nuances become obviously pronounced; hence, very effective and somewhat captivating. Faint electronics, odd percussion instruments from Spera and Monico coupled with the woodwind performances of Falascone and Locatelli offer glimpses of artists at their creative peaks. Here and throughout, the listener is afforded the luxury of entering the mindset of the clever interplay and developments inherent in these pieces. On occasion it almost seems that these folks were reading sheet music as the tempos are prone to shift, heated exchanges alter the flow and again, we detect the subtle details, which counteract the layered or weaving approach. On “Cammina Cammina”, we are treated to a pleasant sense of mayhem, through devious soloing, engaging interplay and unorthodox utilization of percussion instruments and electronics.
While the approach may seem raw or earthy, the trio and guest artists maintain a sturdy sense of tonal color albeit – of the abstract variety -. Takla Makan is a prime example of the major strides taken by the abundant talent originating from Italy. These folks are among the best and effectively illustrate the limitless capabilities of the serious improvising musician. Highly recommended for the modern jazz or free improv enthusiast! * * * * ½