Mario Schiano

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AllMusic Review by

Mario Schiano is the renaissance man of Italian jazz; his prolific recording career and enormous influence on the jazz scene in his native country make him something of an enigma. On this recording, three different Schiano performances with three different groups have been compiled to showcase not only his virtuosity as a musical chameleon, but his expansive, unfettered vision and musical restlessness. First, the Action Trio that features Schiano with drummer Bruno Tommaso and pianist Giorgio Gaslini showcases the deeply lyrical soundscape style of improvisation Schiano has made his trademark. Out on the edge of tonal investigation and harmonic invention, the trio creates open drones layered with angular melodic and consonant fragments to make up a single, hypnotizing whole. Next, "Three Little Songs," recorded live at a festival, places Schiano in a group context with piano goddess Irene Schweizer, violinist Phil Wachsman, and bassist Barry Guy, as well as drummer Paul Lovens. This is free improv at its finest, with each player engaging the ensemble in the heat of the moment, tumbling, roiling, falling, and careening from one idea to the next. It's a breathtaking ride through the eternal present. Finally, from a television program, Schiano plays organ and teams with guitarist Clebert Ford and vocalist Archie Savage on a pair of Negro folk songs sung in the old gospel style: "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" and "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." It is on these last two selections, the two most satisfying pieces on the record, that you can truly appreciate Schiano's dedication not only to jazz, but also to music as the universal art. He plays without a trace of irony, placing him deeply in the groove created by the voices of Savage and Ford. He makes the organ sing with a forlorn sorrow that is at once stirring, and yet the loneliest sound in the world. It's hard to believe these tunes were placed on this album, but truly they couldn't be anywhere else, because they, like the pieces before them, express what is unspeakable in Schiano's work: its all encompassing musical vision that possesses the artist in such a way that it cannot help but move the listener to new places in her or his aesthetic continuum and personal musical iconography.

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