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“Our two friends have their roots in jazz and one’s curiosity is aroused by the challenge they take up with the mode of the can-can before, without our noticing it (or maybe without noticing it themselves) slipping into swing and rhythm ‘n’ blues – certainly not in the search for Offenbach, maybe in search of themselves, or out of the conviction that basically the story of music goes its own way, through evocation and anticipation, as if they were convinced that every composer wrote to anticipate an infinity of music to come: theirs in particular, obviously.”

So writes Umberto Eco in his third consecutive liner note for the duo of Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia, following on from “In Cerca di cibo” and “Round About Weill”, discs which honoured respectively Milanese composer Fiorenzo Carpi and Kurt Weill with affectionate, free and witty reinterpretations. They now travel, by the scenic route, “Round about Offenbach”. Their composed and improvised responses to Offenbach revolve around their arrangements of his works including selections from “La Belle Hélène”, “La Périchole”, “La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein”, and “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”.

Offenbach, French composer of German origin (born in Cologne in 1819) wrote some of the 19th century’s most effervescent music, with a sly disregard for highbrow tastes, largely unconcerned whether his work was regarded as high art, certainly unafraid of frivolity. He gleefully parodied Wagner and other cultural icons in ingenious music that could be beautiful and highly satirical by turns, frequently playing with levels and degrees of “seriousness” and “sincerity”. But craftsmanship was a given: his pieces were always meticulously made, as even opponents were forced to allow. Debussy, through gritted teeth, called Offenbach “a gifted musician who hated music.” As a popular composer who remained an outsider, rarely fêted by the critics, he holds a particular appeal for Trovesi and Coscia, who have a long history of siding with cultural anti-heroes, in particular happily waving banners for exponents of art forms alleged to be “minor” – in this case, the operetta. For Gianluigi and Gianni, Offenbach’s a comrade, a soul brother, “Frère Jacques.”

Release of “Frere Jacques: Round about Offenbach” comes a month after the DVD release of “Sounds and Silence”, the documentary about producer Manfred Eicher and the musicians of ECM which includes sequences with Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia as well as footage of Gianluigi’s All'Opera project with the Filarmonica Mousiké Orchestra and also with his trio with Umberto Petrin and Fulvio Maras.

The old friends from Nembro and Alessandria are enjoying a higher profile lately: it can’t be said that wider recognition is coming too early to them. Gianni Coscia celebrated his 80th birthday this year. On “Frère Jacques” his accordion is as spry as ever, always ready to challenge Trovesi, and to create, on the fly, shifting associative soundscapes that can cast the clarinet in new light, transforming settings from jazz club to cabaret to concert hall.

Gianluigi Trovesi, a mere 67, is increasingly acknowledged as one of the great contemporary clarinet soloists in jazz and related music, and his melodic inventiveness is much in evidence on the present disc, virtuosity imbued with an almost nonchalant charm. A simple pleasure in music making shines through layers of irony in the compositions of Trovesi/Coscia and their dedicatee. As Ivan Hewitt, reviewing the duo in the Daily Telegraph wrote: “There’s an innocence about Trovesi which, despite the vast gulf of time and place reminds one of jazz’s innocent beginnings a century ago.”

CD booklet includes liner notes by Umberto Eco in Italian, with English and German translations.

Press reactions to Trovesi/Coscia’s “Round About Weill” (ECM 1907):

Jazzreview, Editor’s Choice
Stereoplay, CD des Monats
Consigliato da Music Jazz

Can the outrageously Germanic Weill be interpreted by a pair of wily Italians? Of course, but with a strong flavour of their native folklore, with a sense of light classical relief and even an occasional smear of what could be termed jazz. Trovesi and Coscia manage the difficult task of retaining the essence of dank, diseased, underground cabaret, yet still enjoying the rosy-cheeked open-air romping spaces of the Italian countryside.
Martin Longley, Jazz Review

Der Klarinettist Trovesi und der Akkordeonist Coscia hatten vor fünf Jahren mit dem ECM-Erstling In Cerca di Cibo ein wunderbares Statement abgeliefert: 15 gefühlsintensive, offene Dialoge zwischen Kammermusik, Folk und Jazz. Nun gibt’s endlich eine Fortsetzung, in guter Tradition wieder mit einem Essay von Umberto Eco im Booklet. Die beiden Altmeister Trovesi/Coscia – Freunde seit Kindertagen- verständigen sich auch hier mit faszinierender Mühelosigkeit. Neu ist: Sie haben eine Klammer für ihre Zwiegespräche: die Stücke des deutschen Komponisten Kurt Weill, denen sie – von der „Tango Ballade“ bis zum „Alabama Song“ – reizvolle Facetten abringen. Ebenso schlüssig sind ihre selbst verfassten, zahlreichen Intermezzi im Weillschen Geiste.
Matthias Inhoffen, Stereoplay