City of Broken Dreams
Some people still refer to Euro-jazz with a sneer, the term infected with connotations of music that is insufficiently African-American, and therefore is somehow lightweight or prissy. Of course the argument is absurd: for 50 years jazz has been a language rather than a style, and surely the broader the use of that language the better.
Enter a brave new voice on piano: the young Italian Giovanni Guidi, a protege of the brilliant trumpeter Enrico Rava. He has penned 12 pieces for which the word “compositions” seems too hard-edged. They are more like aural dreams enacted by his piano, Thomas Morgan’s bass and the drums of Portugal’s Joao Lobo.
Guidi is a minimalist who likes merely to sketch his pieces at the piano and leave much of the colouring to Morgan. Cardigan-wearing, bespectacled and slight, Morgan looks more like a computer-hacker than one of the most extraordinary bassists on the planet. His extensive work with the late Paul Motian bequeathed him an almost unparalleled instinct for leaving space. This ability to phrase unexpectedly but tellingly is ideal for Guidi’s material, and the sheer sonic mass of his bass grounds the fragility and flitting figures of the dreams. Lobo, meanwhile, does not so much colour as shade, his sparse drumming forming the shadows cast by Morgan’s monstrous notes and Guidi’s more delicate ones.
One of Guidi’s melodies, Leonie, borders on being too sweet, but even this is saved by Morgan’s idiosyncratic placement of notes. A couple of pieces are sinewy and the rest more wistful, with four (including the title track) so beautiful they almost hurt.