Mario Schiano

Sud

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Mario Schiano's CD retrospective continues on Splasch with this issue of dates from the '70s. Three quintets, two octets, and two big band recordings all focus on one important aspect of Schiano's oeuvre: his use of folk song as a means of composition and as a jumping point for improvisation. The most satisfying tracks here are all of them. In each setting, Schiano's voice rises above the choir of horns and winds and rhythm and leads the way to swinging-out fest. A stellar example is the title track, led off by Alfonso Viera's drums. The theme is cinematic, like John Barry meeting Basie for an adventure soundtrack. But Schiano's composition also holds within it various Italian folk songs, ballads, and a stirring tarantella played out by the brass section against a 12/8 rhythm before it segues into a samba and then a blues before the soloists carry it to the outer limits. Even here, with different musics sliding in and out of the mix -- seamlessly -- Schiano's own solo holds the folk song hostage for moment before freeing it up in a swirl of spattered, bleated notes and tonal extremes -- swinging all the while. The adventure theme returns one last time before the tune just exhausts itself and slips minimally into a gorgeous orchestral reading of "Lover Man." Shimmering cymbals, timbral whispers, sheeny brass, and a quivering baritone usher in a forlorn reading of the harmony by the brass section while Schiano solos blues tall and bluesy up front. Other saxophonists are playing multiphonics in the background while a guitarist scrapes his strings atonally, but softly, behind the band's unifying harmonics. Only Schiano plays the dissident, and he's so lyrical and throaty it doesn't matter because he falls silky into the warm soft blanket the orchestra has created for him. With a Gil Evans-styled chart from the middle section to the fade, Schiano and his orchestra surrey forth with velvety elegance and grace while staying so far outside the traditional structures of the tune you wonder if it might be Sun Ra covering it. This is an awesome, warm, and edifying album, one of Schiano's best.

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