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Takl Makan Reviews

Anno 53° - N. 12 - Dicembre 1997
L’universo della musica improvvisata non dovrebbe avere regole ma essere il luogo della discontinuità. I suoi abitanti, singoli o gruppi, dovrebbero essere monadi, ciascuna delle quali identificabile in un proprio codice estetico. L’aspetto più strano e ambiguo risiede nel fatto che molti dei suoi abitanti sono monadi a propria insaputa. In questo universo è infatti possibile entrare per un semplice atto di volontà. Molti ingressi sono basati sulla convinzione che esista un codice scritto di cui impadronirsi; è la ricerca di esso a rendere simili molti abitanti, a omologarli in parte, ma allo stesso tempo a distinguerli l’uno dall’altro per i tratti personali che inevitabilmente sono esibiti e che in quel vuoto di regole assumono spesso il rilievo di un codice.
Può darsi che alcuni dei musicisti che si ascoltano in questo disco siano stati in passato monadi incoscienti nel nostro universo, ma è certo che da anni - da quelli, almeno, in cui sono state effettuate queste registrazioni - la loro convinzione si è rivolta pienamente verso se stessi. Questo «Takla Makan» è uno di quei dischi rari che arrestano per l’esatta intensità della musica - che in questo ambito è oggi un vero elemento di discontinuità - e che rinsaldano l’ipotesi che un codice della musica improvvisata esista davvero.
Qui si ascolta un progressivo avvicinamento a una zona dove far musica sembrerebbe impossibile, una discesa dalla fascia del canto a quella del rumore, una riduzione al sempre più aleatorio e più piccolo. Tuttavia gli elementi coesivi (non si parla ovviamente di melodia o armonia o costanza di ritmo ma di reciprocità, direzione, intensità) appaiono miracolosamente bilanciati e saldi, tanto da conferire alla musica una trasparenza assoluta che consente di trapassarla, o di sentirsene circondati: una qualità rara.
I musicisti che accompagnano il trio - Artuso nel ‘94, Phillips e Spera nel ‘95 e ‘96 - non sono semplici ospiti ma organiche integrazioni che spostano l’intera prospettiva del lavoro. L’interazione fra Monico e Spera, sviluppata in zone acustiche remotissime, produce una delle fasi più palpitanti dell’intero disco, mentre la presenza di Phillips propizia la nascita di un gioiellino musicale di indefinibile e provocante vivacità, Carovana lunatica.
Le note di Fabio Martini, che ha registrato parte della musica e l’ha montata tutta, pongono in evidenza la problematica «sovrastrutturale» della riproduzione di questa musica, in omaggio all’estetica baileyana. In fondo, se un punto di riferimento si vuole cercare per «Takla Makan », esso si trova proprio nei pressi del musicista inglese. Un disco importante e, per la musica improvvisata italiana, un punto fermo.
Giuseppe Dalla Bona

the improvisor
The International web site on free improvisation
lThough previously unaware of the three principals on this CD, I was immediately intrigued by its "theme," the austere Takla Makan desert of Chinese Turkestan. Titles such as "Sven Hedin" (an early explorer of the region) and "Lop Nor" (a vanishing inland sea used as a nuclear testing ground by the Chinese) tempt the listener to hear this disc in programmatic terms, but there's little to suggest the parched landscapes of the Silk Road in the trio's wide-ranging, non-idiomatic improvisations.
In a curious irony, the CD includes liner notes questioning the validity of recording and releasing improvised music in the first place. Having set themselves this challenge, the trio go on to refute the argument admirably with mature, impeccably executed extemporizations. The members of Takla Makan have been working together since 1993, and here present pieces recorded in 1994, '95, and '96 with various guest collaborators. Each session was "directed" by one of the participants, who provided instruction (or no instruction) as he deemed fit. The presence of perennially underrated bassist Barre Phillips looms especially large on this disc, introducing darker colors and greater textural variety into the trio's relatively bright, narrow tonal signature. Takla Makan and its guests generate a great deal of variety across the CD, with passages ranging from carefully placed sound events to hyperkinetic flights fueled by the propulsive drumming of Filippo Monico. A finely detailed, well-balanced set of excursions by a group of players we'll surely be hearing more from
Dennis Rea

Rambles, a cultural arts magazine (published 25 October 2003)
Not quite what it looks like on paper, this founding recording of what became the Takla collective features Falascone, Locatelli and Monico playing as a trio and also with guests Artuso, Spera and Philips. Releases featuring Falascone and Locatelli have now been released on Takla Records, run by these two with fellow reedsman Fabio Martini. With interest in the new label's output growing, it seems prudent to take a look at this 1997 release which, in a way, started it all off.
This is a free jazz session, make no mistake about it. Falascone has strong jazz credentials, and his broad-shouldered alto lurches with graceful ungainliness through the first number. Fittingly, it's just the three of them for this one, which helps the new listener make sense of what's going on. While Falascone is something of a bruiser, whose intelligent core is dressed up in some big, swaggering gestures, Locatelli is far more gnomic. The contrast between the two is wonderful because they play together, rather than against one another, and at times, despite their very different approaches, they sing together as one voice.
Monico is a very inventive drummer in this kind of situation, seeming to keep a pulse going only in his head and playing just the punctuations, dropping the bombs without any of that ting-ting-a-ting which unschooled or deliberately retro players go in for. No, this is seriously swinging, seriously sophisticated stuff. When a regular pulse does emerge, it's as a cross-rhythm, an unexpected tempo which suddenly resolves itself in some crashing press roll; there's more than a little Art Blakey in Monico's playing, but stripped of Blakey's adherence to bop timing it becomes a barrage of supremely complex accents. It would be like watching someone solve increasingly complex mathematical equations if it weren't so exciting.
At the centre of this disc is programmed a sequence of four tracks featuring this trio with the mighty Barre Phillips. The bass player will need no introduction, and of course the results of such a propitious partnership speak for themselves. They start out without Monico in a lovely three-way melodic exchange, creating contrapuntal lines with an astonishing degree of crosstalk. The first half of "Buran" sees a more free-improv setting for the quartet, and even after the entrance of Monico the swing is muted in favour of a more textural approach, but elsewhere they play with a definite jazz flavour. The lovely "Djinn" even has that spaciousness associated with certain ECM recordings, though of course it has a good bit more bite than most of what's to be found on that label.
The longest tracks here (taking up more than half of the CD) are in the company of drummer Fabrizio Spera. Two drummers and two reed players is a tricky combination to get right, but Spera is credited as playing "drums and amplified objects", which gives some idea of how he fits in. His sound-world is definitely free improv, not free jazz, and that pushes the trio into other directions. Falascone and Locatelli have since proved their mettle in these more "abstract" settings with their own discs, but on the strength of the opening half of this release it might come as a bit of a surprise that they're able to follow Spera so far down this road.
Not that they've abandoned jazz altogether, but it's a far more attenuated style in which Spera's odd noises really come into their own, commenting on and even, at times, directing the action in a most unexpected way. When they take a little drum breakdown in "Lop Nor", it's clear, too, that Spera has some impressive jazz chops, and the pair create a fleetingly exhilarating moment betweeen them; one could listen to just this duet for a good long while. "Cammina Cammina", meanwhile, sporadically adopts a strange, lilting rhythm (5/16 or something; it's not metrical, really, just irregular, odd) and that suits Falascone and Locatelli down to the ground.
The single, five-minute track with vocalist Artuso is, in this context, slightly strange, but it's good that they included it. The trio sound very much themselves, with Artuso adding in her rather classical-sounding glissandi into the mix. It works wonderfully, and just five minutes is rather a tease, but there it is. Better that than to leave it out altogether.
Falascone, Locatelli and Monico are establishing themselves, along with Fabio Martini, as big-hitters on the Italian free jazz scene outside of the gravitational fields of the Sub Ensemble and the Instabile Orchestra. The Takla label, named after this recording, released three indispensible discs this year, and for those who have them, this is where to fill in some history; for those who don't know this stuff, it's not a bad place to start. Spanning two years, it's also both a valuable document and a wonderful listen.
Richard Cochrane

All About Jazz - CD Review
By Glenn Astarita
Takla Makan is a desert in Northwest China, which is purported to be bleak and uninhabited as the landscape comprises little else than sand dunes. Perhaps a metaphor for these improvisational specialists emanating from Italy.... Here, the trio of Massimo Falascone, Filippo Monico and Giancarlo Locatelli explore vast regions of sounds via deeply conversational dialogue as the wide open terrain of the desert parallels the boundless musical routes, generated by these master improvisers.
This recording reflects pieces performed with guest musicians throughout 1994,95 & 96’. On “Ants”, vocalist Simonetta Artuso improvises atop Locatelli’s somewhat haunting presentation on Bb clarinet as Falascone’s alto sax and Monico’s free-style drumming converge and convey distinct personalities. Tracks 3-6 were recorded in 1995 as the gifted bassist Barre Phillips lends a helping hand while the musicians often engage in friendly improvisational banter. Phillips’ brief spurts and brilliant arco bass work proves yet again why he is one of the premier modern bassists in modern jazz and improvised music. On “Shamo” the foursome are intuitive and articulate as Giancarlo Locatelli’s piccolo clarinet is a gas! Falascone’s deep husky and throaty baritone sax work is a perfect foil for Locatelli’s light-hearted clarinet phrasing on “Carovana Lunatica”. Recorded in 1996, the 16-minute piece titled, “Lop Nor” features Fabrizio Spera on drums and amplified objects. At times the music quiets down to a whisper where all of the intricacies and nuances become obviously pronounced; hence, very effective and somewhat captivating. Faint electronics, odd percussion instruments from Spera and Monico coupled with the woodwind performances of Falascone and Locatelli offer glimpses of artists at their creative peaks. Here and throughout, the listener is afforded the luxury of entering the mindset of the clever interplay and developments inherent in these pieces. On occasion it almost seems that these folks were reading sheet music as the tempos are prone to shift, heated exchanges alter the flow and again, we detect the subtle details, which counteract the layered or weaving approach. On “Cammina Cammina”, we are treated to a pleasant sense of mayhem, through devious soloing, engaging interplay and unorthodox utilization of percussion instruments and electronics.
While the approach may seem raw or earthy, the trio and guest artists maintain a sturdy sense of tonal color albeit – of the abstract variety -. Takla Makan is a prime example of the major strides taken by the abundant talent originating from Italy. These folks are among the best and effectively illustrate the limitless capabilities of the serious improvising musician. Highly recommended for the modern jazz or free improv enthusiast! * * * * 1⁄2

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