July 24, 2021

Forli Open Music: D’Istante – Jazz Music

The San Domenico Arena – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS Forlì Open Music D’Istante

Forlì, Arena

St. Dominic 26-27 June

The title chosen for the fifth edition of Forlì Open Music: Instant, wittily played on a double meaning. On the one hand, the distances strictly respected in the evocative space of the San Domenico Arena (as well as those unfortunately created in the social sphere in the last fifteen months). On the other hand, the emphasis placed on Instant it alluded to the presence of three events centered on improvisation, in the context of a review, however, reserved mainly for various expressions of contemporary music of an academic matrix. Also worthy of note is the inclusion in the billboard of three absolute premieres and the setting up in the space facing the arena of the photographic exhibition by Pietro Bandini, author of some splendid portraits of jazz musicians. This edition was ideally dedicated to Claude Debussy, whose astonishing modernity some scheduled performances have confirmed.

To begin with, the Sonata from 1915, exemplary returned by Francesco Dillon (cello) and Emanuele Torquati (piano). An example of melodic sensitivity, harmonic depth and formal unity, characterized by an effective alternation between the incisive action of the bow and a lively pizzicato, by an impeccable work on the low register and by an irrepressible rhythmic charge. In the execution of Syrinx (1912) by the flautist Manuel Zurria the vital breath, the subtleties and the nuances timbres, the concatenation and assembly of melodic cells.

Divided into three movements (Pagodas / An evening in Granada / Gardens in the rain), Prints (1903) was enhanced by the pianist Ciro Longobardi through fine textures and crystalline cascades of arpeggios, deviations towards oriental modalities, even vague hints of ragtime. Composed for string quartet, the four op.10 (1893) – in this case the first movement, Lively and very decided in G major – enjoyed an amazing arrangement for the four saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone) of the Sidera Sax Quartet, thanks to a choral development animated by a fruitful dialectic and continuous circular exchanges, and always characterized by exquisite values melodic. Four striking demonstrations of Debussy’s far-sighted poetics, whose harmonic vision still informs much modern music, including jazz.

Francesco Dillon and Emanuele Torquati – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

According to a consolidated practice, the program has given ample space to contemporary composers. Dillon and Torquati dealt To The Master (1974) by Giacinto Scelsi highlighting the essential harmonic fabric, the narrative development articulated through a cell-by-cell interaction, some dissonances and certain inflections of oriental matrix dear to the author. Taken from the repertoire of the Dutch Jacob TV (born Jacob ter Veldhuis), May This Bliss Never End (1996) is an ingenious performance punctuated rhythmically on repetitive but unequal segments of recorded voices. A technique already widely tested, for example by Steve Reich in Coming Out e Different Trains. Occasional pauses and stretches have the function of temporarily relieving the pounding rhythmic tension. The work requires meticulousness and rigorous discipline, moreover inherent to the performers.

Manuel Zurria – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

For her part, Zurria has gone through different expressive worlds. Clan Contract by Lithuanian Ričardas Kabelis is based on a flute polyphony that ends up creating a sort of loop through an iterative process. The imperceptible timbral variations, the microtonal and microinterval research are appreciated, although in the end there remains the feeling that the piece turns on itself.

Designed for piccolo and electronics, Burning Is The Thing (2018) by Australian Anthony Pateras highlights an admirable tonal fusion between instrument and machine, and is built on the slow, gradual accumulation of strident, cutting, sometimes stinging sound bands. The piece challenges (for the writer, with success) the auditory skills and requires great rigor on the part of the flutist.

In world premiere, Rudran And Bija Mantras by Riccardo Nova springs from an electronic base of stratified voices, on which the flute superimposes geometric and iterative phrases then supported by a sampling of tabla that shifts the balance on the territory of the Indian tradition. A fact that mantra recitation definitively certifies. A choice that can be explained by the interest of Nova, a pupil of Giacomo Manzoni, for Carnatic music.

Ciro Longobardi – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

Longobardi also measured himself against two giants of music of the second half of the twentieth century. First Luigi Nono with … suffered serene waves … (1976), for piano and magnetic tape, introduced by sparse and gloomy chords on the low register, dotted with dissonances and clusters, equipped with powerful buttresses and characterized by a wide dynamic spectrum. Then Olivier Messiaen with The lark Lulu, taken from Bird Catalog (1956-1958), fueled by the insistent and parallel contrast between low and high registers, and sprinkled in its slow progress with trills, arpeggios and clusters of notes.

Sidera Sax Quartet – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

Formed by Gianpaolo Antongirolami, Michele Selva, Michele Bianchini and Daniele Berdini, the Sidera Sax Quartet paid a double tribute to the compositional genius of the double bass player Stefano Scodanibbio, who died prematurely in 2012. In world premiere and originally conceived for four trumpets, Plaza (2001) is a small prodigy of balance between form and content, between discipline and creativity, rich as it is in references, contrapuntal interlacing and precious inlays embroidered by four sopranos saxophone suitably arranged at the corners of the arena in order to create a quadraphonic effect and play with the spatial dimension. Polish Sidera (2004) instead sees the saxophonists at work in the construction of excited polyphonies, alternating the various reeds at their disposal in continuously changing arrangements. For example, two tenors plus two sopranos, four tenors, four sopranos and so on.

Enrico Malatesta – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

Another world premiere, Melody – For Malatesta by the American Michael Pisaro-Liu, for Almglocken (cowbells) in tune and electronics, was entrusted to the percussionist Enrico Malatesta, recipient of the dedication. A monolithic composition, not without a certain charm dictated by the hypnotic fixity generated by the electronic staff and the methodical beating of the cowbells. Metallic resonances, frequencies and pitches evoke traces of ethnic cultures and atavistic references.

Fabrizio Ottaviucci – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

A substantial portion of the event was destined for improvisation, carried out by musicians from very different backgrounds. A supreme specialist of Scelsi, Cage and Curran, the pianist Fabrizio Ottaviucci has poured his teaching into a surprising process of disintegration and re-aggregation, made up of rhythmic jolts, chordal blocks, tangles readily unraveled, dry clusters, latch on the keyboard in free form. In this way, as an academically trained musician he approached territories beaten by eminent exponents of jazz pianism: from Cecil Taylor to Paul Bley, from Chick Corea of Piano Improvisations and Circle to Matthew Shipp. The contemporary classical background emerges from the progressive rarefaction of sound, from the painstaking ability to distill matter cell by cell and to dose dynamics.

Elio Martusciello – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

Singular figure of author / performer / improviser, master of electronics and proponent of acousmatic music, Elio Martusciello produces kaleidoscopic sequences in which keyboard and percussion sounds alternate and intersect, distortions, real-life environmental effects, noise and references to music concrete theorized by Pierre Schaeffer. At times thundering, deafening sounds that seem to symbolize the alienation of post-industrial society. Like it or not, they are indispensable pieces of a multifaceted mosaic, representative of Western civilization and assembled with insight.

Alexander Hawkins – photo by Luciano Rossetti / PHOCUS

The English pianist Alexander Hawkins, known in the jazz field for his many initiatives, including collaborations with Louis Moholo-Moholo and Evan Parker, was invited to close the Forlì Open Music review: D’Istante. Just as Ottaviucci had crossed over into the field of improvisation partly akin to the free forms adopted by certain avant-garde jazz players, Hawkins made an almost inverse path by exploring the tonal possibilities of the instrument, subjected to various preparations found after a pounding, obsessive attack. This process gives rise to timbres similar to metallophones of the gamelan Balinese or African thumb piano models such as mbira e kalimba.

Certain progressions, based on dark rhythmic figurations, recall the legacy of that South African jazz that has so influenced the English music scene. However, the jazz matrix rarely transpires, as in certain figurations walking studded with dissonances or in some fleeting echoes of tradition. Even certain rhythmic constructions performed iteratively – at different speeds and intensities – allude to minimalism, further demonstrating the pianist’s multifaceted identity.

Although not devoid of some structural and expressive limitations or defects, Hawkins’ performance was a faithful reflection of a courageous festival, ready to face the risks of chance but rewarded by the large presence of an attentive and passionate audience.

Enzo Drowning