Although the Italian oud player and composer Mauro Sigura bills his band as a world-jazz group which combines traditional Ottoman-Mediterranean music with modern European jazz, the band's sophomore album is not full-on, capped-up World Jazz in the manner of, say, fellow oudist Anouar Brahem's Blue Maqams (ECM, 2017). That album, made with double bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Django Bates, is founded four-square on traditional Levantine modes and structures. Sigura's work, by contrast, is lyrical European jazz flavoured with the sonority and character of a Levantine oud. A better description would be internationalist jazz. The distinction between world and internationalist reads like a fine one, but it becomes broader when you listen to Terra Vetro.
The Mauro Sigura Quartet has been together since 2013 and debuted with The Colour Identity (S'ard) in 2016. For the delightful Terra Vetro, the group is joined, on five of the eight tracks, by trumpeter Luca Aquino. It is a meeting of like minds. Aquino is most commonly associated with the straight-ahead legacies of Miles Davis and Chet Baker, whose lengthy periods in Italy (some voluntary, others as a guest of the country's penal system) made him practically an honorary citizen. But Aquino's aesthetic roams wider than that, taking in work with, for instance, drummer and percussionist Manu Katche and Fourth World pioneer, trumpeter Jon Hassell (a 2012 recording of an Italian concert given by Hassell, Aquino and Enrico Rava still lies unreleased).
Roughly translated into English, Terra Vetro means something like "fragile Earth," and the album addresses, says Siguro, issues concerning migration and the environment. To what extent purely instrumental music can address any specific topic beyond the choice of track titles is a moot point. That said, the apocalyptic closing track, "The Secret Conflict Of Pireo," concerning the two-way ethnic cleansing which accompanied the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war, and the reflective oud-trumpet duet "Requiem Per Il Calderone," each make their general meanings clear.
But whatever the tracks' precise narratives, the album's vibe is unmistakably humanistic and the music connects both cerebrally and viscerally. In that respect, it bears some resemblance to German pianist Joachim Kuhn's work with Moroccan oud player Majid Bekkas and Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez on Kalimba (ACT, 2007) and Out Of The Desert (ACT, 2009). Sigura and his band have their own voice, however, and it is one worth listening to.
Desir; Carthago; Ad Un Solo Passo; Listen Noodle; I Muri De Ceuta; Mistral; Requiem Per Il Calderone; The Secret Conflict Of Pireo.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz and editor of the style magazine Jocks & Nerds; he was previously the editor of Black Music & Jazz Review magazine; he is Afrobeat consultant for Partisan Records and Google Arts & Culture.