Review of Dieci minuti all’alba omaggio a Giorgio Gaslini, by Andrea Monarda, Stradivarius, 2016
“After a long conversation with Berio about composition, he said that composition itself could be condensed into one word: Psychology.” *
I met Gaslini in Milan, in August 1992. I was in Milan to attend the outdoor concert of the great Barney Kessel: Gaslini took the stage and played for three quarters of an hour, without stopping for a moment, about forty-five minutes of continuous, unstoppable music’ s flow, as an intro to the great American guitarist, who was present in the audience a few meters from me. I did not know who was that elegant, dressed in white gentleman, again I was there for Kessel and his jazz guitar and I just started “chewing” jazz music, but those forty-five minutes of so intense music left inside me something deep and full of energy, so I stuck with the memory this music’s gentleman. Years later, listening to his records I realized that summer evening he had played Albert Ayler’s music and I consider those 45 minutes as my personal introduction into free-jazz’s world: I could not be luckier.
A great man and a great musician Gaslini, one of those great 360-degree view musician who was at the same time an improviser, an interpreter and a composer. Gaslini wasn’t just a great jazz musician, but also a teacher, and yes even a composer: in Venice, my hometown, in 1966 for the Teatro La Fenice came the premiere of his Chorus for solo flute performed only by Severino Gazzelloni, one of the Neu Musik’s leading interpreters.
Gaslini was gone July 29, 2014, exactly two years ago, remarkable that today, July 29, 2016, I have decided to write a review for this CD, “Dieci minuti all’alba omaggio a Giorgio Gaslini” released this year for the Italian independent label Stradivarius, by the Italian guitarist Andrea Monarda. This coincidence was not calculated.
Called ‘guitar virtuoso’ by La Repubblica Italian newspaper and ‘a guitarist with twenty fingers!’ by the composer Luis de Pablo, which we find in this cd, Monarda is really an interesting guitar player, who is constantly committed to promoting traditional and contemporary guitar music’s repertoires. He abundantly demonstrates his skills in this cd where he plays music composed by Luis Bacalov, Jeffrey Levine, Gilberto Bosco, Giorgio Colombo Taccani, Alessandro Solbiati, Luis De Pablo, Luciano Berio and obviously Giorgio Gaslini. The Gaslini’s music, “Dieci minuti all’alba omaggio a Giorgio Gaslini” opens and gives the title to the cd, is his only opera composed and dedicated to the guitar, it’s obviously very different from the jazz things that I remember to have heard in his concert, but it maintains a progressive voltage accumulation, an “accumulative neurosis” which finds its outlet ideal at the end of the score, a voltage which is also found in “Aspectos” by Luis Bacalov, where the Argentine composer, famous in Italy for having composed the music of “Il Postino” with Massimo Troisi, frees his personal references to tango inside this score characterized by a strong chromaticism. Much more serene and relaxed atmosphere, however, for “Impromtu Variationes” by the American composer Jeffrey Levine, dedicated to guitarist Parke Hill, where he combines both of Levine’s academic background and his interest in jazz’s improvisations. “Fantasia (the Passacaglia)” by Gilberto Bosco, who also wrote other works for guitar as Rifrazioni (1976) for solo guitar, Piccoli Arcobaleni (1994) for two guitars and A due d’improvviso (1994) for guitar and harpsichord, is a very structured and complex passage, where alternate “short and ascending melodic lines, characterized by strenght and tension, are juxtaposed to a repeated bass pattern, with high speed and and very piano dynamics.” Even Giorgio Colombo Taccani has an interesting experience about guitar’s composition. Before this his evocative “Erma,” he had composed other works such as Memoriale (2004) for solo guitar and A perfect beat of (2011) for two guitars. Alessandro Solbiati’s writing for guitar recalls the idea as the instrument as a small orchestra. His “Studio n. 1 ” (1997) consists two different ideas, the first, linked to the dawn, to what rises, which opens to the second, in which it develops as the utopia of considering the guitar as an orchestra. Premiere recording for “Turris Eburnea” by Luis De Pablo, by the same composer defined as “a formal study on some possibilities of the guitar. I can summarise them as follows: 1. Third intervals, played forte, overlapping very fast pianissimo ornamentatios (with a short development); 2. An inversion of the previous idea through register changes; 3. Transformation: the “melody” becomes pedal. 4. New ideas appear in contradiction: regularity and “staccato”.”
The cd closes with Berio’s Sequenza XI, a choice connected to Gaslini’s quote about composition. Monarda explain us in the cd’s booklet that Berio defined “a meta-polyphony, which generates a new gestural and theatrical dimension. The two ‘souls’ of the guitar, both classical and flamenco, oppose each other in dynamics and musical expression, as well as in technique (more specifically, reading the tone). Sequenza, as a title, does not have any relationship with the medieval musical term: it refers instead to ‘sequences’ and relative overlaps, both harmonical and technical, with consequent differences in instrumental actions. “
This is a very complex cd, whose passages and even a painting by Alessandro Lama, “Contrappunti Cromatici”, exhibited in the cover, make homage to Giorgio Gaslini, Monarda is an excellent performer and moves at ease in a technically challenging repertoire, characterized by a continuous tension, from a sometimes exasperated chromatism by research that goes beyond the simple juxtaposition of melody, tonality and atonality. It requires a definitely challenging and complex listening , but it can give a lot of satisfactions. I consider it essential for those who want to delve into the personality of the great Italian pianist and jazz musician. A great deep tribute.
* Giorgio Gaslini from the cd’s booklet