Palermo has, in turns, been designated Italy's cultural, economic, and tourist capital. It has not heretofore been acknowledged for its avant-garde, solo acoustic, spontaneous improv, or modern jazz scenes. Through his consistent issuance of aural postcards from his Byzantine outpost, guitarist Francesco Guaiana has quietly emerged as the region's most gifted practitioner at all of these sub-genres.
2002's Nojaz (Exaudi Records) melded free, inside-outside playing to textural atmospherics, while 2006's solo guitar outing, Clouds in Motion (FGR), adroitly employed loops and effects in real- time to intertwine a legitimately avantist approach with unabashed melodicism.
Guaiana has come forth with his most simple and direct session to date, a trio conventionally deploying heads, verses, choruses, and bridges, incorporating modern- rock influences and colors. He's crafted his most accessible statement: a prequel to his below-the-radar, deceptively developed career.
Guaiana partially drew inspiration for this set of tunes from his stint as an artist-in-residence in Paris, and the musicians and music encountered there. But intriguingly, he claims his greatest inspiration came from an imposing piece of foliage located directly out his window: the "spoiled tree" of the title.
One of the facets of his style that makes him an important player is his deft arpeggiation of unusual chord voicings, which begins the title tune. The notes of the arpeggios act as fluttering, lingering leafs as brushed drums become winds blowing them off their branches and trunk, realized by the building role of electric bass, descending from high to low pitches, coinciding with the cymbals' pulse. It not only evokes the cover portrait, but acts as an evocation of the subject's spirit.
Guaiana's tunes strive to be aural triptyques, as he's accordingly named his band. "Gare de L'Est" achieves the trick via pulsation and propulsion. Classical technique is employed for an etude-like introduction that gives way to a live loops, executed by crystalline right hand technique. This is buoyed by the modern drum'n'bass rhythms of Ruggero Rotolo's kit in combination with Luca LoBianco's off-kilter, proggish bass line. Guaiana employs all varieties of right hand technique into his single-note statement, from staccato alternate-picking passages emphasizing intervallic leaps to more scalar legato phraseology.
While "Canalyze" is the most electric piece, its vicious odd-time vamp is tempered by a lyrical arpeggiated section. Guaiana flies with legato abandon during his aggressive solo section, choking off his cumulative series of lines with a harmonizer pedal and reverse-wah effects. Bass and drums overtake him as he creates a textured loop and long tones for them to energize, deplete, and renew.
Renewal is a theme for Guaiana, who readily reinvents himself on each release, while leaving an imprint. The "spoiled tree" is a metaphor for renewing spirit. As a leafless tree is rested and renewed, so are we on many levels; either in rhythm or opposition to nature. Here, Guaiana reaches the lofty goals of not only evoking this through his music but by also imparting some renewing energy of his own directly to his audience.