It’s described as a demo recording of rehearsals put together for a series of upcoming live dates, but really there’s more to it than that. The recording of eight improvisations by the trio of percussionist Luca Gazzi, guitarist Luca Perciballi and cellist Annamaria Moro not only is a set of music worth listening to in its own right; it also represents one realization of a conceptual system that Gazzi calls the LIARSS method of improvisation.
LIARSS is the Italian acronym for what in English would be Free Self-Managed Improvisation for the Claims of Sonic Space. In practical terms, LIARSS is a method that draws on extended as well as conventional technique, coupled with an appreciation for listening as a complex act that inevitably impacts the quality and development of an improvisation. Gazzi, who is from Treviso, seems to see LIARSS as a way for improvisation to become a reflective art aware of the grounds of its own making, rather than simply to be a series of ad hoc responses to the contingencies of circumstance. Gazzi, who’s self-taught as a musician, has an academic background in philosophy with a focus on structural relationships between concepts; the LIARSS method, with its consideration of the elements of improvisation and their interactions, seems to give him a holistic way of combining his philosophical perspective with the concrete demands of musical production.
Gazzi isn’t the only member of the trio to bring a rich background to the music. Perciballi, from Modena, trained as a classical composer but also worked with Butch Morris, serving for a time as the latter’s assistant. Moro is a visual artist as well as a cellist; she plays a range of music running from free improvisation to the world-folk of the Paduan ensemble Zephyros.
For all their varied backgrounds, together Gazzi, Perciballi and Moro fuse their voices into an organic unity that leaves room for their individual sensibilities to show through. Over the course of the eight improvisations on the recording, the group negotiates the territory between pure sound and more conventional musical material by freely crossing back and forth between and through the two. Gazzi’s percussion in particular tends to move toward abstraction while Moro’s cello, for all its willingness to explore, remains rooted in the instrument’s natural voice and timbres, with a particular sensitivity to contrasting long bowed and shorter plucked tones. Perciballi’s guitar often plays a mediating role, coloring the collective sound and acting as a kind of aural adhesive. The group sound equally at home playing with a focus on timbre and texture or moving to a defined rhythm or cello ostinato overlaid with shimmering guitar that could’ve come from the soundtrack to a forgotten western. The philosophy behind the music may be challenging, but the sound is welcoming.