Mario Schiano

Friendship of Walnuts

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Now here's an odd one. Saxophonists Mario Schiano and Vittorio Curci assemble an octet that includes Conrad Bauer, Roberto Ottaviano, Ernst-Ludiwg Petrowsky, Giuseppe Guarella, Fabrizio Spera, and Pasquale Innarella to perform at a festival in Noci, Italy, in 1996 and come up with an improvisation that feels like a concept album. "The Friendship of Walnuts" is actually this collaboration between friends that begins with a gorgeous formulated modal interlude as an intro ("The Eight of Us") and moves into a group improvisation between the four saxophonists (Ottaviano and Petrowsky) and the trombone, French horn, bass, and drums. Sure, a clarinet and a megaphone enter along the way, as does some magnetic tape noise, but ultimately it's the reeds against the world and Conny Bauer's trombone, which timbrally goes toe to toe with them on nearly every turn, not so much battling for dominance as for the overtonal sustenance needed to keep a large group moving through this music for nearly 40 minutes. There are cascading solos, wildly divergent intertwining arpeggios, and flat-out good-natured musical warfare in places, all of it turning on the idea of how close a group of musicians can get in timbral exploration without going astray. And for a date that seems to focus in on improvisation, they get some pretty far out results.

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