domingo, 2 de abril de 2017

Claudio Airo - Omninside (MUSICISTI ASSOCIATI PRODUZIONI M.A.P. 2017)



Adesso viene il bello (e il difficile ...)
Neanche troppo distante dalla boa dei quarant'anni (è nato a Milano nel 1967, anche se dal '91 vive in Toscana), il pianista Claudio Antonio Airo (originariamente Airò; poi, con gli spostamenti del nonno dalla natia Sicilia, l'accento si è perso per strada) decide di documentare la propria musica attraverso il primo lavoro discografico a suo nome.


Segnato dalle frequentazioni di Arrigo Cappelletti prima e di Umberto Petrin poi, dentro alla valigia si porta anche un certo legame con la musica leggera, nel cui circuito si è mosso poco più che ragazzo, e con programmazione e registrazione, anche su sistemi computerizzati. Poi, con l'avvento del nuovo millennio, il jazz finisce per assorbire tutte le sue energie creative (che sono, specificatamente, anche quelle di chi scrive musica prima ancora di suonarla). Nell'ambito di Siena Jazz conosce colleghi di strumento del valore di Paolo Birro e Stefano Battaglia (anche lui milanese di stanza in Toscana), nonchè, ai seminari sardi di Sant'Anna Arresi, i vari Schiaffini, Braxton, Muhal Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Tim Berne, tutta gente che non può non lasciare un segno in chi vi si imbatta.

Tutto questo bagaglio rifluisce oggi in "Omninside", il cui elemento fondante appare di primo acchito un'estrema cantabilità. Prendiamo il brano iniziale, Dissoluzione, uno dei quattro a firma di Airo: è il solo pianoforte ad aprirlo, e sembra che da un momento all'altro debba entrare in scena una voce. Quella voce, di fatto, si materializza nel sax soprano di Klauss Lessmann. Non è del resto il sax soprano, col suo rievocare la voce lirica per antonomasia, quella delle Callas e delle Tebaldi, lo strumento più prossimo all'umano lirismo? Steve Lacy, imprescindibile maestro del sassofono diritto, ne era più che convinto: "Il soprano è la voce, il canto per eccellenza", dichiarava. Non si può certo dargli torto.

Tale tratto - la cantabilità, appunto - permea di sè ogni passaggio del primo trittico di brani. Che, emblematicamente, si chiude con una canzone, Senza fine di Gino Paoli, che a chi scrive - naturalmente anche per il suo svilupparsi su tempo ternario - ha sempre dato l’idea di una specie di My Favorite Things di casa nostra. E qui le gerarchie (magari non l'andamento, più lineare, fluido, a tratti quasi bossanovistico, quindi non altrettanto squassante, vorace, onnicomprensivo) riecheggiano quelle del capolavoro che Coltrane fece proprio, iscrivendolo fra le massime icone della letteratura jazzistica: un sax soprano, un pianoforte, un contrabbasso, una batteria.

Più avanti Lessmann passa al clarinetto, quindi al sax tenore (sul quale mostra di aver ascoltato con attenzione un certo Wayne Shorter), e i tracciati finiscono per indirizzarsi anche altrove, facendosi ora vagamente cameristici, ora di più stretta osservanza post-bop.


Rimane, alla resa dei conti, l'immagine di un lavoro composito (come molte opere prime, del resto, in cui sembra una sorta di imperativo categorico dire un po' tutto di sè, riassumere ogni personale sfaccettatura), frutto del lavoro di un gruppo ottimamente coeso ed efficiente. Come sempre in questi casi, adesso comincia il difficile.

1. Dissoluzione (C. Airo)
2. Omninside (C. Airo)
3. Senza Fine (G. Paoli)
4. MO (C. Airo)
5. Box and One (K. Lessmann)
6. Amennema (F. Fabbrini)
7. W Ernest (F. Fabbrini)
8. Work (T. Monk)
9. Mimando (C. Airo)

Claudio Airo - piano
Klauss Lessmann - sax, clarinet
Franco Fabbrini - bass
guest Francesco Petreni - drums


Josh Green's Cyborg Orchestra in Telepathy & Bop (2017)


Composer Joshua Green takes a quirky, colorful approach to melding modern jazz and contemporary classical music on Telepathy & Bop

Green’s 16-piece Cyborg Orchestra will celebrate the irreverent album’s release on March 2 at National Sawdust

"Josh Green's music is full of surprises and left me smiling. If Fellini directed a Twilight Zone episode about the artist Paul Klee, this would be the soundtrack. It is evocative and playful, and certainly does not fit in a box, a quality I wish more composers would find.  Mr. Green has found a truly original and engaging voice." - Ted Nash


Combining lively modern jazz, contemporary classical richness, cinematic narratives and an offbeat sense of humor, Josh Green & The Cyborg Orchestra offer a skewed but vibrant take on the big band tradition. On their debut album, Telepathy & Bop (due out February 24, 2017), the 16-piece Orchestra draws inspiration from surreal visual art, jazz and classical icons, and an accidental stalking episode briefly intertwining the fates of the bandleader and a certain Today Show host, all of which converge to craft a strikingly unique and off-center sound.

By day, Joshua Green, recently awarded a Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award from ASCAP, plies his trade as Music Supervisor for ITV America, the world’s largest unscripted television company. While devising the perfect soundtrack for battling housewives, rampaging bridezillas and scheming chefs comes with its own rewards, Green found himself in need of a creative outlet apart from the voyeuristic pleasures of reality television. Enlisting some of the finest musicians he’d discovered while working on film and TV soundtracks and Broadway musicals, Green assembled a singular ensemble that deviated from the standard big band to incorporate unexpected voices, including accordion, bass clarinet, Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI) and strings.

Band members include Charles Pillow (oboe, alto sax, tenor sax), Todd Groves (EWI, flute, alto sax, tenor sax, Eb clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Jay Hassler (Bb clarinet, bass clarinet), Nathan Schram (viola), Nick Revel (viola), Clarice Jenson (cello), the adventurous PUBLIQuartet – Curtis Stewart (violin), Jannina Norpoth (violin), Nick Revel (viola) and Amanda Gookin (cello) – John Lake (trumpet), Chris Misch-Bloxdorf (trombone), Nathan Kochi (accordion), Sungwon Kim (guitar), Michael Verselli (piano), Brian Courage (bass), Josh Bailey (drum set).


The initial stirrings of inspiration for the Cyborg Orchestra, though, date back nearly a decade, to a time when Green had shifted focus from his jazz studies to concentrate on composing contemporary classical music. He was studying at the University of Vienna in early 2007 when the news reached him of jazz great Michael Brecker’s untimely death. Distressed at the passing of one of his musical heroes, Green was moved to try his hand at writing a jazz piece inspired by Brecker’s legacy.

“I really looked up to Michael Brecker,” Green says, “and when I found out he’d died it was a trigger for me to go back to my jazz roots. I wanted to write something that showcased the jazz language, bebop in particular, in a contemporary classical setting. It evolved over a really long time until it became ‘Telepathy & Bop.’ I had no idea what the piece was going to be until it became what it was, but that was the impetus to create this ensemble.” That piece, which gives the album its title, is a constantly surprising three-part suite that refracts the angularity of bebop through an avant-garde classical lens, creating a tumult of acute swerves and clamorous textures.

It was a number of years before Green finally put together the Cyborg Orchestra to bring “Telepathy & Bop” and other pieces to life. In the meantime, he’d worked on films by directors like Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and David Cronenberg while writing orchestral arrangements for the New York Pops, Emmy Award-winning television shows and Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals in New York and London. He’s carried his gift for scoring narrative ideas into the Cyborg Orchestra, finding the spark for several compositions in visual art and personal stories.

“The Lauer Faceplant” sonically recounts the story of one of Green’s awkward brushes with fame (since moving to New York in 2009, he’s tallied quite a few, which he’s in the process of turning into a suite). Shortly after arriving in the city his not-yet-developed urban compass led him into a face-to-chest collision with Today Show host, journalist and recent Presidential Forum moderator Matt Lauer. Their destinations being in the same direction, Green then proceeded to follow Lauer, giving the bandleader the uneasy sensation of being an inadvertent celebrity stalker.

The composition born from that encounter plays like a clumsy spy-movie soundtrack, capturing the accidental intrigue and only-in-NYC hilarity of the incident. “I hate to take myself too seriously,” Green explains. “I’m a very lighthearted person, and while I can get inside my own head a lot when I’m trying to write, the thing that speaks to me the most is that wackiness in life. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in Seinfeld and I see this as a great opportunity to express the fun I get to have in life in a way that’s meaningful to me.”


Frenetic album opener “Boy & Dog in a Jonnypump,” the mysteriously tropical “La Victoire,” and Paris-by-way-of-the-circus rag “Soir Bleu” all have their origins in paintings. The first is based on a work by the influential, graffiti-inspired artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, while “La Victoire” is taken from René Magritte’s curious image of a cloud floating through an isolated door by a seashore – an image that was through an odd coincidence invoked by a condominium commercial that Green was tasked with scoring. “Soir Bleu” comes from an Edward Hopper scene that finds a smoking clown amidst a group of Parisian diners.

“I always start writing with a narrative in mind when I write,” Green explains. “In all of the paintings that have inspired me, there’s a narrative that’s beyond what’s right in front of us.”

The same could be said about the photograph of a cobblestone street in Cuba, lined with classic American cars, that inspired “Reverie Engine: The Ambiguous Rhumba.” The driving rhythms of Cuban music are hinted at but subdued by a sense of uncertainty in Green’s conception. Finally, like “Telepathy & Bop,” “Improvisation & Nebula” nods to another of Green’s musical influences, Hungarian composer György Ligeti. The piece’s stark atmosphere, dark harmonies and spectralism all have their roots in Ligeti’s music.

Having realized Green’s musical vision on record, the Cyborg Orchestra will take on full-blooded human form for its live debut at National Sawdust on March 2 to celebrate the album’s release. Meanwhile, Green is hard at work on a new batch of music for the band while trying to avoid literally bumping into stars on the street. Regardless, it will no doubt combine the accessible with the avant-garde, the zany with the zeitgeist.


Green's awards and accomplishments include:

- ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award

- Music Supervisor for ITV America

- Music for films by directors including Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, David Cronenberg

- Orchestral arrangements for the NY Pops, Broadway musicals (NY and London), Emmy Award-winning TV shows

- Studies at New York University, Berklee College of Music, University of Vienna

- Saxophone studies with Todd Groves (Radio City Music Hall, NY Phil, Broadway) and Lenny Pickett (Saturday Night Live)

- Worked with film composer Howard Shore for several years

About the CD and beyond:
- Green is creating a suite based on a series of awkward encounters with famous people. One such encounter is sonically expressed in a track from his new CD, "The Lauer Faceplant." Shortly after arriving in the city Green found himself in a face-to-chest collision with Today Show host Matt Lauer.

- Green wrote the record's title track in response to the death of jazz great Michael Brecker. Says Green, "I really looked up to Michael Brecker, and when I found out he'd died it was a trigger for me to go back to my jazz roots. I wanted to write something that showcased the jazz language, bebop in particular, in a contemporary classical setting."

- Several of the tracks on Telepathy & Bop are based on paintings, including "La Victoire," based on an image by Magritte, one that also played a role in a condominium commercial scored by Green.

- "Improvisation & Nebula" is a nod to another of Green's influences, the Hungarian composer Ligeti.

- One of Green's first compositions was a wind quintet that replaced the French horn with an alto-sax and featured a bebop-style fugue.

- Green's arrangement of "Sesame Street" was presented by the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, with all the Muppets on stage.