Joe Giardullo

Language of Swans

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Joe Giardullo has labored for many years under the shadow of his colleague, Joe McPhee, with whom Giardullo has performed and recorded many times. When Giardullo ventures out alone, as he does here -- as part of a superb collective -- the results can be startlingly impressive. The multi-talented reed player is an unlikely icon of so-called avant-garde jazz. For one thing, although capable of intensely developed clusters, he generally performs with a certain delicacy that focuses on color, timbre, and sound to the exclusion of pure energy. For another, he plays a variety of instruments, including the flute, soprano sax, and bass clarinet -- all of which lend themselves to a slightly lighter touch than, say, the traditional tenor or alto, the latter of which he also performs here. Thirdly, Giardullo engages in advanced techniques that require close listening: tonguing and valving, for instance, which create new and exotic qualities. This is not to say that Giardullo cannot solo with intense concentration. He can and he often does so here, as, for example, on "A Tear for the Missing," where his exhaustive flute improvisation is followed by Michael Thompson's slow but powerful and laconic piano eventually leading back to a soft, wistful, contemplative soprano sax. There is hardly a weak track on the album, with all three members of the trio working as a single well-scrubbed unit to produce some extraordinarily synchronized sounds. On soprano Giardullo is indebted to Evan Parker -- just listen to "Migrations," in which Giardullo's extended improvisation builds with terrifying gusto. There are no written melodies, and while the tunes are thoroughly improvised, they are nonetheless paragons of beauty, exhibiting a natural attraction even if not recognizable.

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