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Giacomo Merega/David Tronzo/Noah Kaplan: The Light and Other Things

This is the debut recording of Italian-born electric bassist Giacomo Merega, although given the collaborative nature of the music, it’s fair that guitar innovator David Tronzo and Brooklyn-based saxophonist Noah Kaplan get equal billing. Inspired in part by the work of Swiss-German painter Paul Klee (1879-1940), the trio puts forward a music of high abstraction, with suggestive hints of tonality and tempo and an emphasis on contrasting timbres.

Klee’s art was in many ways unclassifiable, making this CD an apt tribute (though not the first: Gunther Schuller composed a suite honoring the painter in 1959). Merega and Kaplan are both steeped in the microtonal language of reedist Joe Maneri. Tronzo has developed his left-of-center slide guitar methods in a variety of contexts, including the bands Slow Poke, Spanish Fly and Mr. Lucky. This encounter, with 10 improvisations ranging from two to 10 minutes long, falls between the disciplinary cracks and follows its own logic.

Kaplan’s tenor sax sound is not unlike Maneri’s-legato, tremulous, breathy (his soprano attack is smoother, less fractured). It’s the dichotomy of his sustained note-play and the metallic texture of the strings that gives the session its unique stamp. There are no drums, although Tronzo and Merega flirt with the concept of pulse from the very start of “Once Emerged From the Grey of Night.” Titles such as “Amateur Drummer” and “Light Drum Roll” seem to stress the music’s rhythmic content, generated in large part by Tronzo’s prepared guitar sounds. From the radio static of “Destruction of Hope” to the banjolike effects of “Red Balloon” and the stark single-line interplay of “Chorale and Landscape,” we hear a perspicuous melding of electric and acoustic, crowded and sparse, sonically harsh and disarmingly melodic.

Originally Published