Alberto Nacci

Isola Lontana

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Back in the day when Splasc(h) Records were establishing themselves as the Italian label for native jazz, they released a ton of records by jazz musicians who were willing to try anything to find a unique voice, even if the effect of that voice was contrary to what traditional notions of jazz might be. Thank God they did, or listeners might not have had the deeply moving melodic and textural brilliance of Alberto Nacci and his band. The band consists of Nacci's lower register saxophone tone on the tenor, Fabrizio Garofoli's keyboard lyricism, Giuliano Vezzoli's piercing bass throb, and Stefano Bertoli's dancing drums that come straight from the Jack DeJohnette school of soft, insistent death. "Isola Lontana" is a modal tune, it broods and echoes off itself, it seeks through various intervals a way of resolving its harmonic issues without resorting to a full-blown attempt at lyricism to do so. There is a certain amount of the '70s ECM sound at work here, but it's warmer and not as icy and separate; these musicians are certainly in the room with one another playing live. Nacci's tenor is in the minor mode, searching around three ideas for a way to pin them all in some kind of dirge dance, but it never happens. Instead, propelled by Garofoli's woven atmospherics, the fluid rhythm section and the modal cadenzas serve as signposts to the listener to go further in. Elsewhere, on "Vele," the lyrical side of Italian jazz comes to the fore and the quartet blows soft and sweet, with just a hint of restlessness in the background. But on "Van Gogh" and "Viole," all of that comes to the fore, albeit in different forms. On the former there are thematic statements made and variated upon until the tune loses everything but its center. On the latter there is a staunch formalism in the melodic statement, which is intricate and knotty and is played at bebop speed. Finally, on "Maree," there is synthesis where the postmodern progressive jazz monster meets the textural balladeers and turns the entire track inside out with ringing single-note piano solos inset into a fragmented yet forcefully flowing prog jazz narrative. This is a fantastic display of the Italian jazz mind, one that is ever restless, ever musical, and ever lyrical.

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