“Gaslini” Giorgio Gaslini: The Complete Remastered Original Recordings – 11 discs [AlbumList follows] – Black Saint/Soul Note Records [Dist. Harmonia mundi] (12/13/13) ****½:
(Personnel: Giorgio Gaslini, Gianni Bedori, Bruno Tommaso, Andrea Centazzo, Julius Farmer, John Vidacovich, Gianluigi Trovesi, Paolo Damiani, Gianni Cazzola, Luis Agudo, Roswell Rudd, Marco Vaggi, Eddie Gomez, Anthony Braxton, Claudio Allifranchini, Maurizio Caldura, Fabio Morgera, Daniele di Gregorio, Giko Pavan, Paolo Pellegatti, Francesca Oliveri, Piero Leverattot)
Pianist Giorgio Gaslini is Italy’s version of Keith Jarrett. He is an astounding pianist equally familiar with free and post-bop jazz, scoring film music, and composing symphonies. He supplied the soundtrack to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film masterpiece La notte (The Night, 1961). He is as conversant in hardcore improvised music as he is in penning ballets and operas for TV performance. He’s also the author of two textbooks on jazz. In every sense of the word, he is a musical polymath.
And you’ve probably never heard of him.
Not your fault. Unless you are very hip and were following European imports in the ‘70s, you would’ve never encountered Free Actions, New Orleans Suite, or Graffiti in an average urban record store. Now all these albums are contained in this must-have box CD set, attractively reproduced in photographically-reduced pseudo-LP 5-inch jackets. Unfortunately, most of the program notes are in Italian; the ones that are bilingual are in a typeface so small they are nearly illegible. (Even as seen through a magnifying glass, some of the words are still smeared.)
No matter, you can always get your information from the Internet. It’s the music you’re after. And the stuff that’s in this set, even when it slips short, is extraordinary. There’s no telling where a Gaslini composition is going to take you. Skies of China (1985) for example, recorded during one of the first tours by a modern jazz ensemble in the People’s Republic of China, starts off with a simple almost sentimental melody and then parts a universe of musical complexity and variation. Graffitti features Gianni Bedori’s frenetic tenor sax and the other five players in a heated free jazz exchange that sounds like it’s going nowhere, until Gaslini gives it direction two-thirds of the way through. It’s clear he’s reigning them in when they stray too far. Later in this CD there’s a pointless goat bell solo somewhere, followed by a rousing bongo solo in “Mexico City Free.” Inconsistent? Well, yes. Surprising? Always.
Unlike Jarrett, Gaslini seems not fond of solo albums (at least not here). Perhaps he’s at his best collaborating with individuals and groups. Again the results are mixed. Sharing (1979), an album made with trombonist Roswell Rudd, is a mixed bag. I wanted “Ode to a Green Frisbee” to be good because of its cute title, but it’s not. The two musicians play off, not with, each other. But the rest of the cuts are just fine. “Simona” shows that Gaslini knows how to stride; “Tango Barcarola” and “Ow-Wah Blues” reveal the dazzlingly inventive side of two collaborators.
A true keeper on this set–so engaging, so appealing, and so accessible that I play it for jazz fans here in Florida still stuck in the forties – is “Murales 3” from Murales. Its structure, syncopation, and melody remind me of the best of Jan Garbarek, every bit as good as “Paper Nut” from Dresden (which I also play them). (I just noticed on Amazon that there’s a CD entitled Gaslini Plays Monk. Now doesn’t that just tickle the back neck of possibility?)
AlbumList:CD 1: Murales CD 2: New Orleans Suite CD 3: Free Actions CD 4: Graffiti CD 5: Sharing CD 6: Live At The Public Theater In New York CD 7: Ecstasy CD 8: Four Pieces CD 9: Indian Suite CD 10: Monodrama CD 11: Skies Of China
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