Rudi RecordsCreative Music and Adventurous Jazz

Jazz Word (Canada) | Looking Back, Playing Forward

THE FREEXIELANDERS - Looking Back, Playing Forward (Rudi Records 1032; Italy)

Take for instance the Italian octet The Freexielanders. On Looking Back, Playing Forward (Rudi Records RRJ1032) the band brings the same rollicking, texture-stretching freedom to contemporary original as they do to two-beat tunes that were even considered warhorses in the early 1950s. Yet starting with the first track which blends the hoary “St. Louis Blues” with “Gotta Get to St. Joe”, the foot tapping performance is done with such finesse that it’s obvious that Alberto Popolla’s sparkling clarinet blowing and Giancarlo Schiaffini’s gutbucket trombone slurs would impress during this pseudo-march exposition whether played in 1917 or 2017. This same sort of transubstantiation is applied to standards like “Yardbird Shuffle”, borne on trumpeter Aurelio Tontini’s Gabriel-like high chortles and slap bass from Gianfranco Tedeschi; or “Black Maria” that evolves into a hearty swing-shuffle dance, following a jagged split tone intro from the five horns plus vibraphone-clanking extensions from Francesco Lo Cascio that could have been part of a 1965 Free Jazz date. Like actors who are as convincing in a Shakespearean production as in an action flick, the eight perform reverse alchemy on modern tunes. “Sabor de habanera”, a Schiaffini composition, moves from tango to tea dance to something more within the contrapuntal challenge between the trombonist and clarinetist and ends with a Count Basie-like repeated riff. Meanwhile “Voice del Deserto” treated as a cousin to Hoagy Carmichael’s “Hong Kong Blues” features both free-form reed wiggles from Popolla and sizzling Gene Krupa-styled pumps from drummer Nicola Raffone. Relentless polyphony that characterize the recasting of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Cannonball Blues” relates both to notated orchestrations with a Native Indian-like lilt that pulls it one way plus slap bass and so-called Jungle effects trumpeting pulling it in another. More distinctively Tontini’s sputtering tongue stops and Schiaffini’s well modulated slides not only made a perfect toping for the stacked reed trio vamps on Come Sunday but by leaving space for altissimo clarinet puffs. The piece is deconstructed to the extent that the performances – like most of the CD – become timeless.

[Ken Waxman, Jazz Word]

For The Whole Note April 2017

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