The liner note to What’s That Noise?, the exhilarating recent album by trombonist/composer Giancarlo Schiaffini and pianist Giuseppe Giuliano, is a manifesto of sorts. In it, Schiaffini observes that until relatively recently European music included improvisation among its accepted practices and declares that now, after the experiments of the second half of the last century, improvisation once again has become acceptable as a course of action available for use in conjunction with notated music.
Pursuing that conjunction is, in essence, the program for What’s That Noise? The album consists of five free improvisations alternating with four new and recent compositions by Giovanni Costantini, Corrado Rojac, Stanislav Makovsky, and Schiaffini himself.
As might be expected, both Schiaffini and Giuliano have deep backgrounds in improvised music as well as in the postwar European avant-garde. Giuliano’s musical sensibility was imprinted by encounters with Franco Evangelisti, Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. As a performer, he’s realized contemporary composed works in addition to playing improvised music in different settings. Schiaffini, in addition to having been part of the European free jazz movement, studied with Stockhausen, Evangelisti, György Ligeti and Vinko Globokar, and collaborated with Cage, Nono and Giacinto Scelsi.
As is apparent from the very first notes, the music on What’s That Noise? reflects both musicians’ fluency not only in the advanced vocabulary of contemporary improvisational practices, but in the expansive sound world and complex syntax of the postwar European avant-garde.