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Italian Instabile Orchestra: Litania Sibilante

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The decade-old Italian Instabile Orchestra celebrates both national interest and diversity we’re told in separate liner notes by Art Lange and John Corbett. The music is freer and more eclectic than in most American orchestras of this size-18 pieces plus guests Enrico Rava (trumpet) and Antonello Salis (accordion). The performances on this album are remarkable not only for the range of musical styles but also for the connections between musical episodes.

Gianluigi Trovesi’s “Scarlattina” exemplifies the scope of sounds. Near the beginning, there’s a roller-coaster ride of collective improvisation. Later, regal brass lead to solos by trumpet (presumably it’s Rava, in a Miles mode), trombone and classical-tinged piano. Next comes a “La Bamba”-esque dance section-you get the picture. Free-form jazz, old-world harmonies, impassioned Latinate, Milesian musings and campy dance grooves mix. But it all evolves in sequence and flows together.

Paola Damiani’s initially lyrical “Sequenze Fughe” shows traces of Gil Evans, the World Saxophone Quartet, Stan Kenton and Bob Brookmeyer. Giancarlo Schiaffini’s dark title composition features Salis’ accordion, as does Pino Minafra’s “Herr Fantozzi,” a burlesque piece with a swing dance feel, a vocal rant (through a megaphone) and Carla Bleylike “dark opera” harmonies. There’s also Alberto Mandarini’s “M 42,” in which walking bass appears (a real rarity in this album) and Schiaffini’s veiled arrangement of “Lover Man,” featuring Mario Schiano’s Konitzlike alto saxophone.

As an American, I’m not privy to all the indigenous Italian themes (musical and otherwise) in these performances. But I dig stepping outside the normal boundaries and expectations of jazz and hearing something fresh and exhilarating.