AMN Reviews: Luciano Caruso – +4 LINKS N° 3 – WILL [Setola di Maiale SM3750]; Davide Rinella – quando ero un bambino farò l’astronauta [Setola di Maiale SM3840]

These two ambitious, yet very different, releases of music for reeds reveal two distinct faces of avant-garde music.

Treviso saxophonist/composer Luciano Caruso’s +4 LINKS No. 3—WILL (Perceptive Flow Approach to Music) is a collection of compositions for saxophone quartet. Caruso, who plays curved soprano saxophone, is joined on the recording by alto saxophonist Walter Vitale, tenor saxophonist Lorenzo DeLuca, and baritone saxophonist Ivan Pilat. The compositions take the form of graphic scores partly inspired by abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky’s work and partly by a theory of self-organizing social networks. The music, consequently, is intricate and complex, consisting of now-tighter, now-looser knots of sound. The saxophone quartet is in many ways ideal for this kind of music, since the relative uniformity of the instruments tends to subordinate color to line. At the same time, it brings to the foreground awareness of the essentially mobile position of the individual voice within the collective sound. The pieces on the album tend toward a kind of block polyphony—harmonies and sound masses in which the four saxophones nevertheless remain distinct. This they do by playing broken chords, overlapping and sustained tones held in greater or lesser degrees of harmonic tension, free-blowing simultaneous soloing, and closely choreographed unison passages: a music of dynamic interaction.

Quando ero un bambino farò l’astronauta, a solo release by the Milanese Davide Rinella, is ambitious in a way different from +4 LINKS No. 3. Whereas Caruso’s album is centered on composition, Rinella’s is freely improvised. Rinella plays chromatic harmonica—which of course is another reed instrument—in spontaneous performances captured on eight tracks. An album of solo free improvisation for harmonica is rare if not unprecedented; happily, Rinella takes up the challenge with musicality as well as ingenuity.

Daniel Barbiero