Guitarist Massimo Sammi demonstrates a penchant for conceptual jazz schemes on his latest CD, First Day. Inspired by the movie A Beautiful Mind which was based on the life of the extraordinary mathematician John Nash, Sammi constructs a sonic storyboard fraught with melodic and mathematical motifs that move the tracks into precarious forms while maintaining a firm hold on its moorings. Accompanied by saxophonist George Garzone, bassist John Lockwood, and drummer Yoron Israel, Sammi delves into geometrically shaped expressions and robust improvisations that fuel the compositions flickering movements and animated jaunts.
The amble swirls of Garzone’s saxophone along the title track and “Encryption” have an elegant stroking while stilt by Sammi’s soft pivoting pickings and caressive musings. The rippling toots of the saxophone in “Prisoner’s Dilemma #1 - Be Quiet” move like squishy puddy creating a lively give and take exchange with the explosive bursts of the guitar while a series of fever-pitch flurries are constructed by the quartet peaking with the angular guitar distortions trellising “Prisoner’s Dilemma #2 - Rat Out” and cradled in the billowing thrusts of the rhythm section. The album turns serene with the gentle island sway of “Ice Cream And Tears, Please” and the placid tempo of “Hallways” which is drenched in cool, lounging esthetics. The album closes out with the peaceful riffs of “Disappeared Friends” seamed in calming rhythmic beats and cupped in gently roaming guitar pickings that inject a pensive mood. Vocalist Eade appears in duet with Sammi on “Ice Cream And Tears, Please” and “Disappeared Friends,” which lends these tracks an additional dimension.
Sammi tells in a recent press release that the entire band collaborated on these tracks. “We divided to quartet into two teams: me and (bassist) John Lockwood, and (saxophonist) George Garzone and (drummer) Yoron Israel. Each team had a robber and a prosecutor.” He describes, “The robbers (me and Garzone would) write down a one-bar musical idea and exchange them without the prosecutors (Lockwood and Israel) seeing them.” Then “the two melodic instruments (guitar and saxophone) must decide whether to confess or not and listen to hear if the other robber confesses the idea he wrote down. On the other hand.” he advances, “the rhythm instruments (bass and drums) have to try to understand if the robbers are confessing and what they were confessing. In other words, to understand the ideas written on the paper.”
It’s quite an inventive approach to making music which translated into expressions with a conceptual jazz slant. Sammi also claims in the press release, “The main theme of the recording is the redeeming value of sorrow,” shown in a number of tracks that had a proclivity to induce a pensive mood in the listener. The exchanges between “the robbers” and those between “the robbers” and “the prosecutors” demonstrate a animated interplay with an avant flare and an eclectic modern spark. Massimo Sammi’s debut album First Day proves to be a melting pot of inventive melodic schemes and thick entanglements that stretch jazz music’s limits.