AMN Reviews: Guillaume Gargaud & Eero Savela – Helsinki [Plus Timbre PT109]; Mauro Sambo & Matilde Sambo – sentieri paralleli [Plus Timbre PT112]

One of the pleasures of the long-form improvisation is that it allows the improvisers to invent freely and to explore as many ramifications of those inventions as their sensibilities demand, and their skills allow. In a sense, the long-form improvisation is, at least potentially, a fully articulated picture, in sound, of the interaction of a unique musical personality with time. The albums Helsinki and sentieri paralleli, both of which contain long, unbroken improvisations, provide just such portraits of the four musicians who created them.

The thirty-four-minute-long Helsinki Part 1, recorded in what now seems like the antediluvian pre-covid month of February, 2020, documents the first time guitarist Guillaume Gargaud of Le Havre, France, and Finnish trumpeter Eero Savala played together. That this was their initial meeting isn’t at all apparent in the music, which develops with a smooth, unbroken progression of ideas that are realized with an unhesitating assurance—not only for the entirety of the lengthy first piece but on the shorter follow-up as well. What both improvisations reveal is a strong lyricism carried along on Savela’s warm, mid-range voice, the unhurried phrasing of which contrasts with the bright, staccato tones of Gargaud’s acoustic guitar. Gargaud supports Savela’s melodies with sympathetic chords and countermelodies that evidence a sophisticated harmonic sense working in real time.

In contrast to Gargaud and Savela, who hadn’t met before recording Helsinki, it’s safe to say that Mauro Sambo and Matilde Sambo, a father-daughter duo, knew each other before recording sentieri paralleli and in fact they’ve previously collaborated on a recording. Also in contrast to the spartan instrumentation of the Helsinki set, Mauro and Matilde both bring a broad range of instrumental voices to their music. Mauro is represented by electronics, contra-alto clarinet, gong, Tibetan bells and other percussion, cello, zither and kumbus; Matilde is here on electric guitar, electronics and field recordings. Both musicians use these resources with discernment; there’s no overcrowding of textures or overshadowing of individual contributions. Their nearly thirty-eight-minute-long, single-track album begins with an electronic flourish in an echoing space and unfolds as a deliberately paced, ever-changing soundworld that pulls the listener into its nuanced, mist-enshrouded topography. All the more striking then when the mist evaporates and the lone voice of the contra-alto clarinet emerges, or an electric guitar arpeggio, or a clutch of pre-recorded speech.

Daniel Barbiero