Stefano Pastor / Kash Killion – BOWS (Slam)

Stefano Pastor / George Haslam / Claudio Lugo / Giorgio Dini – FREEDOM (Slam / Silta)

Stefano Pastor, who hails from Genoa, is an excellent violinist with an atypical gravelly tone (he fits his instrument with electric guitar strings) sweetened by a melodic sensibility that keeps him far from both Mediterranean stereotypes and excessive complexity. He also doubles on flugelhorn and percussion on Bows, a duo with Kash Killion, a cellist from California of Indian origin whose sarangi skills are in evidence in “Shanti”, an irreproachable contemporary raga. The meeting occurs at different latitudes and heights, mixing the necessities of self expression, classic jazz (two Monk evergreens, “Epistrophy” and “Ruby My Dear”, are tackled with interesting if not unforgettable consequences) and deliverance from labels intelligently framed in decency. It’s not an easy listen, but the effort is often rewarded: the initial unfriendliness of certain discordant intersections is gradually replaced by the admiration for the obstinate will of finding a point of fusion between “spiritual” and “coherent”. It doesn’t happen all the time, yet various moments of genuine absorption make it worthwhile.

According to Erika Dagnino’s professorial liners, the music on Freedom partakes in the idioms of free jazz but its mesh of unruly sensuality and shrewdness is closer in feel to chapters previously penned by ROVA. However, this is not a saxophone quartet, though there are times when it’s hard to distinguish the grain of the bowed instruments (Pastor’s violin and Dini’s double bass) from the actual reeds (Haslam’s baritone and tarogato and Lugo’s soprano). In “Emancipation” a bass vamp underlying all kinds of contrapuntal intensification acts as a skeleton for the piece’s propulsive character, while in “Rebellion” the sheer magnificence of four-way evolution is made evident by the clever restraint with which the players respond to the scintilla of inspiration. It’s unbelievable how they sound well-rehearsed and able to communally understand where those improvisational rivulets need to flow faster to form a cascade, or when to simply close the eyes and listen to the heartbeat of shared perception.

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