More “knowingly provocative” music (to quote Umberto Eco, once more providing the liner notes) from the great Italian duo that delighted many with its 1999 recording “In cerca di cibo”, “always shifting to some point where the listener doesn’t expect to find them.” “In cerca” had included improvisations on sources as diverse as the Modern Jazz Quartet and music from an old Italian TV film about Pinocchio. This new recording finds them taking a tangential or round about approach to one of the most creative composers of the 20th century, still misunderstood after all these years: Kurt Weill (1900-1950).
Eco expresses surprise at this choice, but there’s a clear enough logic to it. Weill scholars still talk about the “problem of the ‘two Weills’”, the composer of the German years, once ranked alongside Hindemith, and the Broadway songwriter of the American years working inside the traditions of the musical, popular theatre, the cinema. For Trovesi/Coscia this ‘problem’ is no problem at all, since the Italian improvisers from Nembro and Alessandria share a similar disdain for artificial distinctions between supposedly highbrow and lowbrow art, know (like Weill) that great music can as easily be found on the street as in the conservatory and that all forms are valid vehicles to carry an argument or, simply, to have fun with. Factor in Weill’s status as a leftwing Jewish troublemaker and one of the very first composers to acknowledge the creative potential of jazz, and he stands as a natural anarcho-spiritual forebear. From their Italian perspective, Trovesi and Coscia also sees Weill as a musical-philosophical neighbour to their hero Fiorenzo Carpi, celebrated on “In Cerca”, whose music played a role in the political theatre of Dario Fo and Giorgio Strehler and who was also a poetic ironist, and a radical as well as a writer of enduring melodies.
So: here we find both Weill pieces and free meditations on Weill, plus new Trovesi/Coscia music in a Weillian spirit. The main inspirational source for the programme is “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”, the three act opera that marked one of the highwater marks of Weill’s collaboration with playwright Bertolt Brecht. Its musical content was recently summed up by Paul Griffiths as “Bach meets the 1920s dance band, with canons and chorales brought into critical contact with popular rhythms and song styles.” “For us“, says Coscia, “Mahagonny is the starting point, the pretext for changing the material”. The duo also plays, in its own inimitable manner, the “Tango Ballade” from “The Threepenny Opera”.
Kurt Weill’s music was one of the subjects accordionist Gianni Coscia first focused on when finally devoting himself full time to music after 30 years as a practising lawyer. In 1991 he participated in performances of “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” with the RAI Radio Rome Symphony Orchestra.
Gianluigi Trovesi, almost unchallenged amongst clarinettists in Europe, has been one of the defining figures of Italian jazz, a multiple prize-winner in his homeland since the 1970s. Membership of Giorgio Gaslini’s groups helped raise his profile but it was not until the 1990s that Trovesi began to be widely known internationally, both as the outstanding soloistic star of the Italian Instabile Orchestra (ECM album “Skies of Europe”), and leader of his own bands, particularly the Octet, which would also record for ECM (“Fugace” by the Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto, recorded in 2002, takes a very unorthodox look at some of the roots of early jazz).
But the duo with Gianna Coscia is a special and unique pleasure. The two old friends have a very advanced musical understanding and the humour that radiates from their music is underpinned by astonishingly quick-witted exchanges. The music has grown steadily from their debut disc for a small Italian label “Radici” in1995, through “In cerca di cibo” to the present disc. The duo is immensely resourceful and flexible in its approach, as it roves through the margins of a dozen idioms. Not only are Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia the best at what they do, they are the only ones doing what they do!
A special release concert for Trovesi and Coscia takes place in Bergamo at the Jazz Festival on February 18th, followed by a CD presentation at Bergamo’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna at 11.30 on the 19th.
The duo follows up with a tour of Germany in April and May. Dates are listed at www.ecmrecords.com Further concert activities are in preparation.
Press reactions to “In Cerca di Cibo”:
“Trovesi and Coscia enjoy an almost magical rapport. They are on the genre-bending edge cutting edge, leavening their jazz roots with references to classical, folk and popular music…the playing throughout is really compelling. The two men conjure up an astonishing variety of sounds and atmospheres and all their work seems heartfelt. This is music for the 21st century, unclassifiable but thrilling”
Ian Carr, BBC Music Magazine
“Trovesi’s folksy dancing lines and reveries of sound weave delicately around the accordion of Gianni Coscia. The repertoire is a mix of traditional music from the region, careful textural blends and improvisational vividness. As Umberto Eco says ‘The meeting of apparently incompatible traditions conjures up the ghosts of non-existent musical families.”
John Fordham, The Guardian
“Music that confounds all notions of genre. It is quiet and intensely felt, with the accordion’s wheezing breath answered by birdlike calls from the clarinet. If you ever wanted a soundtrack to remind you of sun-dappled Tuscan summers, this is it, big-time.”
Phil Johnson, The Independent
“Musicians like Coscia, who made the transition to jazz early on, lacked the musical data to become faux Americans; by necessity, they filled the information void with an Italian sensibility. This produced a shot in the dark synthesis of early jazz and folkloric improvisational traditions that Trovesi and Coscia revel in … A very heartwarming album”, Bill Shoemaker, Jazz Times
“Milanese clarinettist Trovesi and accordionist Coscia express sentimentality without bathos, nostalgia without the clichés, as if discovering these emotions for the first time. The title track, which translates as ‘In Search of Food’, is a model of folk sentiment and wit. Not only do Trovesi and Coscia know how to treat folk music respectfully, they also know how not to take it too seriously.”
Bruce Carnevale, Rhythm, World Music & Global Culture