Rumore d’acqua, a three-movement suite for a percussion trio and voices, is named for the last line of a classic haiku by Basho. The poem also provides the text sung during the suite’s third movement, and appropriately so: the apparent simplicity of haiku is reflected in the simplicity of the trio’s makeup—piano, vibes, and table—but as with haiku, the implications of this surface simplicity are complex and subtle.
Rumore d’acqua’s trio is composed of pianist Marco Olivieri, vibist Antonio Valente and tabla player Sanjay Kansa Banik. All three are resident in Italy—Olivieri in Rome, where among other things he is active in the improvisational collective NED; Valente in Milan, where he composes and teaches music therapy in schools; and Banik, who teaches and performs in various ensembles, in Rome by way of Bengal. All three are rigorously trained in their respective musical traditions, which meld nicely in this multi-layered, rhythmically intricate music.
Each movement of the suite begins with a text sung as a canon for three voices, which is then developed in the instrumental improvisations that follow. On the first movement, the piano and vibes pick up from the canon and elaborate and vary the melody until the original modality gradually dissolves into freer harmonies and wider-ranging melodies. The second movement places the tabla under the voices, from which it emerges into a long solo that sets up a propulsive current of sophisticated rhythms. The piano and vibes enter in at about the halfway point and with the tabla weave a lively rhythmic web based on threes. For the third movement, the piano and vibes accompany the voices before settling into a slow, measured rhythm that eventually accelerates to a racing finish.
As important as the piano and vibes are to the suite’s melodic and harmonic development, it really is the tabla, with its constantly mutating rhythmic subdivisions and cross-accents, that gives the ensemble its truly unique and mesmerizing sound.