Seize the Time!

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The most attractive aspect of this creative collective is its continuing ability to come up with new large-scale projects supported by top-flight improvising musicians. This very well may be the best recording yet for Nexus, a superb Italian conglomeration founded in the early '80s that has grown in size and stature through the years. Led as of the date of this recording by percussionist Tiziano Tononi and saxophonist Daniele Cavallanti, this version of the orchestra boasts a virtual who's who of Italian jazz (plus guests), ranging from trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini to trumpeter Herb Robertson to multi-instrumentalist Renato Geremia, with guest artist Roswell Rudd playing a significant role. The music soars, with consistently intense solos and sprawling harmonies, meaning that this group could give any band -- even the local and world-renowned Italian Instabile Orchestra -- a run for its money. (Actually, Nexus and the Italian Instabile Orchestra share several players.) Nexus makes good use of Rudd, who plays some of his best work on disc and whose "Numatic Swing Band" takes up most of the second CD and is a highlight of the album. The trombonist was well prepared for this recording, contributing some of his best recorded big-band work. Rudd appears to be at the peak of his powers, delivering riveting, characteristically bold punches. While portions of the performance can be characterized as free jazz (especially the two orchestral improvisations), Tononi and Cavallanti keep the conventional jazz element in the forefront, with melody and traditional sounds taking their place at the table. This lavish production, with more than two hours of recording time and a 30-page booklet filled with essays and pictures and liner notes from several musicians and writers, including essayist Amiri Baraka, adds to the sense of importance of the album. As with other projects of Nexus, this is one to savor, to come back to again and again.

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