I feel superlatives coming on today. Though in general I love the ECM label, there are times when its euro-centric “chamber jazz” is too arch or attenuated for my taste. With the welter of Italian names all over the Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto’s (“Octet”) Fugace, I must confess to a small pang of fear.
The last time I was that wrong, the dotcom industry collapsed. Based on a wildly eclectic tour through jazz history – from Dixieland to electronics-drenched avant garde jungle jazz – clarinetist/alto saxman Trovesi’s (born 1944) odd octet (clarinet, trumpet, trombone, cello, electric bass, double-bass, drums, percussion, electronics) astonishes, surprises and delights over 60 minutes and all the musical colors of the rainbow.
While extremely sophisticated and harmonically satisfying throughout, the rhythms and energy level of the middle portion of the recording caused my 3-year-old to dance around the room with Rite-of-Spring abandon, careening to and in such a frenzy I feared for her safety. After a subdued opening of film score-like (Italians excel at that – Morricone!) subtlety featuring Trovesi’s clarinet over foreboding electronics, skewed New Orleans swing alternates with harpsichord antique formality and trombone/trumpet outbursts hearkening to early Armstrong and the wild ride has begun.
The 11-minute “African Triptych,” which ranges from Kronos Quartet to Ellington to funky charging free jazz to the space jazz of Chicago Underground Trio is a mind-boggling synecdoche of the entire album – a must have from the frontier where modern jazz, world music, contemporary classical, and the avant garde meet.