Gianni Gebbia

Body Limits: Solos for Alto Saxophone

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Given the manner in which Anthony Braxton defined recorded improvisation for the alto saxophone on Delmark's seminal For Alto in the late '60s, and then redefined it on Alto Saxophone Improvisations on Arista in the '70s, virtually every saxophonist recording a date of this kind -- whether acknowledging it or not -- owes a great debt to Braxton's pioneering spirit and fluid technique on the instrument. The 17 improvisations that make up Body Limits are most certainly indebted to Braxton but, since Braxton himself felt indebted to Lee Konitz' Lone Lee album, Gianni Gebbia gets to bring the circle to a close around his own playing. Gebbia, whose own lyrical and harmonically inventive playing is a great gift to the Italian jazz scene, wears his influences proudly. Certainly influences like Konitz, Desmond, Hank Mobley, and Cannonball Adderley are more than represented in his melodic style, but sonically, John Cage, Bruno Maderna, Braxton, the early Art Ensemble, and the Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble come to mind. But in his note-for-note playing, altoist Marion Brown comes closer. The warmth in Gebbia's tone and the open-tonal reaching of one microharmony for another without having to bleat through the horn come from Brown. His quiet insistence that -- no matter what -- a note, a rest, and a melody had to be played through to the end is everywhere evident in Gebbia's playing. But Gebbia's melodic and harmonic invention are purely his own; he understands space, time, and the necessity of remaining focused -- check "Amniotico," "Mobius Ring," "Cordelia," or "Monadism" for easy examples. Gebbia has it: the gift to extend what he's learned in order to become who he is. As for everyone else who happens to be listening, they're damn lucky to have recorded evidence of such a great master at work.

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