Italian multi-instrumentalist and composer Stefano Maltese was, up until the release of this recording in 1995, almost completely ignored in his homeland, though he had been on the avant-garde and jazz scenes for over 20 years, writing, arranging, performing, and sporadically, at least, recording. Book of Yesterday changed that, to a degree. If Maltese is not well-known in his homeland yet it is of little consequence (at least he is not ignored there anymore), because the rest of Europe has embraced him for his important contributions to jazz and free improvisation, as well as his formal compositions. Book of Yesterday is a kind of retrospective, focusing on his work from 1974-1994, all of it newly recorded with handpicked musicians in a proper studio with proper recording equipment: no more two-track tape machines. What Book of Yesterday offers is a rounded view of someone new to the free jazz and vanguard music scenes outside of Italy. Whether he is playing a lush, complex, and stridently beautiful tribute to a French composer ("Trois Petits Chevaux Pour Erik Satie"); tonal studies for soprano saxophones ("Three Free Trees"); impressionistic timbral studies for chamber groups ("Strings & Threads"), jazz, string, and horn trios ("The Lame Crow Can't Sing the Blues"); charts for blues-drenched European serial music; or paying homage to a long-dead French poet ("Thirteen Around Rimbaud," a half-improvised, half-composed workout for horns and electric guitar with rhythm section), Maltese melts all barriers between musics. No -- that's wrong. He has no need to melt them because he doesn't see or hear them. In his ears, a stinging soprano line in an octave study is every bit as soulful as a carefully conceived serial section of a string and wind quartet. Drums and electric guitars are both rhythm and lead instruments, and the entire world of sound is a color palette from which to pick and choose the most alluring shades. What provides depth and motion one day may be a surface of stillness the next. All of it is so sophisticated and heartfelt, it would make Gil Evans and George Russell shed tears. Maltese, no matter how well-known or obscure, is the man. Period.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek