Giancarlo Schiaffini

Free Jazz at the Philharmonic

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The radical free jazz group Gruppo Romano Free Jazz electrified the musical world of Italy when it was organized in 1966 and brought its members worldwide acclaim. Since then, Mario Schiano, Giancarlo Schiaffini, and Bruno Tommaso have appeared on dozens of recordings and, to varying degrees, developed considerable reputations in Italy and internationally. The live concert at the Roman Philharmonic Academy (with 1,400 in attendance) documented on this recording was a 36th reunion of sorts, with the young trombone phenom Sebi Tramontana added for the second piece. As to be expected, the core trio performs with a graceful and slippery eclecticism that incorporates quotations from popular songs (by Schiano) and an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of avant-garde jazz. While the excitement that the group originally engendered is somewhat lessened (how could this not be so after so may years?), the addition of the second trombonist on "Part Two" seems to invigorate the group, adding considerable depth and providing a foil for Giancarlo Schiaffini. Tramontana picks up where Schiaffini leaves off, with a cool, smooth, and sophisticated virtuosity that puckers like an overdone pancake. Together, these giants of the 'bone inspire one another, leading to some delightful interaction. The ageless Schiano is the dominant voice throughout, his signature searing, emotional clips from songs such as "Lover Man" on "Part Two" a continuous delight. For the most part, Tommaso gets lost in the mix, his bass constituting the entire rhythm section. The enthusiastic crowd absorbed it all, reveling not so much in the historical aspects, but in the quality of the music. While the short recording time and the less-than-pristine sound diminish its import, the recording is an important one historically, and often lives up to expectations. Even when it doesn't, you'll wish that you had been there.

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