AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Gianni Mimmo – Further Considerations [Tarzan Records TZ06]

mimmoJust about ten years after the release of his first solo recording in 2005—a self-produced solo recording from ten years before that isn’t part of the official opus—Gianni Mimmo has come out with Further Considerations, an LP of compositions and improvisations for solo soprano saxophone.

Mimmo takes best advantage of the LP’s format-by-division by devoting the A side to three independent pieces and the B side to an eleven-part suite. The A side opens with Mimmo’s concise interpretation of Steve Lacy’s Cette Fois—Lacy being the natural point of reference for an album of solo soprano saxophone. Life, dedicated to the memory of Mimmo’s friend Gilles Laheurte, also a soprano saxophonist, is improvised, but it retains the memory of structural chord changes that keep it coherent at the global level while remaining playfully unpredictable at the local level. The final track on Side A is Square as Theatre, a relatively brief piece dedicated to Italian 20th century painter Mario Sironi. Mimmo’s wistful, airy melodies jump registers and alternate with strident multiphonics, in the process turning bright timbre against itself to capture the undercurrent of melancholy and aloneness implicit in Sironi’s solid, slab-like forms and muted palette of ochres, umbers and drab olive.

Side B is given over to sections from A Number of Floating Sections for Piet Mondrian, a composition of 1986-1989 for which Mimmo created a graphic score. While Sironi’s paintings captured the volume and solidity of things—the brute facts of matter—Mondrian’s mature work instead attempted to convey eidos through a reduction of form to its basics, his grids and primary colors constituting a neo-Platonism of the perpendicular. Mimmo, too, engages basics with the suite, the relatively brief individual sections of which let him construct cohesive forms in constrained spaces. The shorter of the pieces are epigrammatic, featuring a simplicity of line in which relationships between tones are clearly set out, even through leaps of intervals and interposed pauses. A handful of overdubbed sections, with their intersecting lines, seem to lay out the equivalent in sound of Mondrian’s orthogonal frameworks.

As with all of Mimmo’s work the music here, no matter what its inspiration, is based on balance. Not only the moment-to-moment balance of register, phrasing, dynamics, and articulation, but a larger, more fundamental balance of abstraction and direct lyricism.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Gianni Mimmo & Daniel Levin – Turbulent Flow [Amirani AMRN032]; Gianni Mimmo & Alison Blunt – Lasting Ephemerals [Amirani AMRN037-LP1]

Two unusual and refreshing duets for reeds and strings, both of them featuring soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo.

Mimmo, a resident of Pavia in northern Italy, started out on tenor saxophone and passed through alto and baritone before settling on the soprano after hearing Steve Lacy play live with Bolognese poet Adriano Spatola. Although Lacy was an important early formative force in Mimmo’s development, the latter’s influences and aesthetic grounding go beyond jazz and even free improvisation to embrace contemporary art music as well as visual and media arts and, perhaps more importantly, poetry. Mimmo’s playing reflects an interest in the symmetries between voice and the soprano saxophone—both of which are powered and limited by the measure of breath—and is centered on a melodicism always on the verge of alluding to speech and its variable rhythms.

R-4077400-1354467939-6427.jpegThe aptly titled Turbulent Flow pairs Mimmo with the dynamic American cellist Daniel Levin. All nine tracks masterfully realize the concept of the duet as being as much about setting voices against each other—in the abrasions of parallel planes rubbing surfaces, or in the direct confrontation of collision on the perpendicular—as it is of having them blend harmoniously. Conflict and complementarity are built into the weave of the interplay between the two, with Levin’s muscular, physical engagement with timbre framing Mimmo’s buoyant complexes of sound. Both players build and relieve tension through a variety of textural strategies such as layering rapid runs up and down the sax on top of thickly impastoed cello chords and glisses; opening up transparent spaces through contrastingly quiet contrapuntal passages; mounting a flurry of upper register notes on the soprano over the cello’s obliquely walking pizzicato. This is about the beauty of angles, some of whose edges are quite sharp.

LastingEphemerals_Mimmo_Blunt_album_cover_art_2014If the sonic geometry of Turbulent Flow is broadly planar, the interplay between Mimmo and UK violinist Alison Blunt is one of supple and intertwining lines. This set of duets, recorded at St. Leonard’s Shoreditch Church in London in the summer of 2013, embodies a quieter and more reflective mood than that of Turbulent Flow. Much of the music is a matter of putting line against line. Both players shape melodies out of spontaneously constructed tone rows, with Blunt moving smoothly between single note lines and harmonically rich—and sometimes unsettling–multiple stops. Color contrasts between reed and string are largely supplementary to the improvised polyphony, but when the two instruments overlap in pitch, particularly in the upper register, each unhesitatingly asserts its own identity with stridence.

As the one constant binding both of these very different recordings together, Mimmo’s voice inevitably is thrown into high relief. It consistently coheres around an often free-flowing line that has at its core a lyrical logic that keeps it rooted in song, even as it moves through pantonal note sequences, registral leaps and serrated rhythms. Extended techniques such as key clicks and overblowing serve somewhat the same function in regard to the main line as backlighting for an object—they make clearer the essential profile of the thing in question, which for Mimmo is always the melody.