AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Stephen Gauci​ / ​Matt Shipp ​/ ​William Parker ​/ ​Francisco Mela – Live at Scholes Street Studio (2022; Gaucimusic)

Led by Stephen Gauci’s signature squeaking sax, this is one of his latest releases in a series of freely improvised performances. Busy recording and releasing throughout the pandemic, here he explores the classic jazz quartet lineup with the similarly prolific Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, and Francisco Mela on drums.

The contrast between Gauci and Shipp is quite remarkable. The former plays largely outside without repetition or any distinct harmony, while the latter takes a classical / chamber jazz approach with dense, percussive chording and quick runs. Both deviate from the traditional notion of “swing”, leaving that to the rhythm section. Parker and Mela provide complex and busy patterns with enough structure to undergird the all-out playing of their bandmates. Mela, in particular, keeps things grounded in a jazz-oriented approach while maintaining highly energetic tempos.

But when listening, I had to keep focusing on Shipp. Not unlike a number of his recent recordings, he drives the group forward with aggressive soloing, staccato pounding, and counterpoint to Gauci’s blowing. One could probably just separate Shipp’s contributions into a highly engaging solo album. Despite his seriousness, you still get a sense of sheer joy from this group. Four stellar – if not legendary – musicians at the top of their game, having fun while they tie our ears in knots.

Recorded last year but released earlier this month, Live at Scholes Street Studio shares its title with several other of Gauci’s recent efforts. Nonetheless, this one stands out even in that crowded field. Two thumbs way up.

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