Stefano Battaglia

Sulphur

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AllMusic Review by

This is Italian free jazz from a two-thirds Italian trio. While pianist Stefano Battaglia and bassist Paolino Dalla Porta may not be well known to many outside of the hardcore improv audience, drummer Tony Oxley better well be. His presence on the disc suggests one thing: that his collaborators are more than capable. The ten pieces here, as engaged with free improv as they are, are compositions nonetheless authored by various members of the group. The engagement between Oxley and Dalla Porta is nearly telepathic. Given Oxley's extremely busy style, it's no wonder that Dalla Porta chooses to play from the hip, offering short staccato bursts to highlight Oxley's high-hat runs, and longer, deeper octave tones to his snare and tom-tom flurries, and bowed ostinatos when bass drum and ride cymbal are employed exclusively. Above all this rides Battaglia's skittering skeins of tonal clusters and outrageously lengthy single note runs. The basis for this piano/bass/drum trio's communication seems to lie in the roots of augmented minor pitches introduced by Battaglia in each of the works found here, no matter the author's signature. Does it swing? Nope. This is internal music that explores the interior working of the trio as it tries to examine its own harmonic identity between individuals. It's head music to be sure, but ominous, fascinating stuff nonetheless. The brilliant sonorities with which Battaglia and Dalla Porta express themselves individually and in counterpoint to one another are worth the price of admission alone. But then, so is Oxley's mysterious, ever-moving drumming.

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