Paolo Damiani

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Eso Review

by Thom Jurek

ESO is one of young Italy's newest constructs, a group dedicated to find the seam between free improvisation and structured new music that comes out of both classical and jazz, and ripping out the stitches. Comprised of Paolo Damiani on bass; Paolo Fresu on trumpet, Gianluigi Trovesi on alto and bass clarinet; Danilo Rea on piano and voice; Roberto Gatto on drums; Antonio Isaevoli on guitar; and vocalists Sabina Macculi and Raffaella Siniscalchi. Everyone from the band members to Berthold Brecht is the impetus by which this large band travels down the highways of bent harmonics, angular scalar studies, modalities that have been turned inside out, and a prescient, seemingly eternally romantic lyricism throughout, marking their identity as an Italian. Often these offerings feel like folk songs that have been tempered by the distance and harshness of time, yet they are wrought with great tenderness and grace, no matter how dissonant the improvisations become. The singers are strong here, as they have to be; they keep the tempest of grief, loss, wistful remembrance and brokenness in check, hold it all within their voices on tunes like "Come Nomadi" or "E Va Via Cosi," or even "Donne in Gravita." They carry the pastoral melodies and the fury of the maelstrom within their arms, folding inside their chests like a child's crying face and give that pain utterance. In the process, they transform it into pure beauty. This is Italian jazz with its own identity, completely removed from America's bear-like presence. Oh, how beautiful, how sad, how ingenious this all is.