By Brian Morton | Published September 2020
When does three equal four? In this case, the explanation is as simple as the results are remarkable. Composer and piano/electronics experimenter Matthew Herbert took samples of Enrico Rava and Giovanni Guidi, and manipulated them into a backing track, over which the veteran trumpeter (also on flugelhorn here) and the up-and-coming pianist improvised. Hence the outwardly surprising “live” subtitle; these are concert recordings.
The multipart suite begins quietly, slowly building into a cityscape of chorused traffic noise, shouted greetings and ambiguous encounters. Herbert’s interest in anger as a creative principle surfaces as the music builds to a climax, fades and mounts again with extra menace. Part II opens more conventionally, with horn and piano over a slow rumble, the whole reminiscent of Don Cherry’s Desert Band. Everything is held in check for nearly five minutes, before giving way to a clanking, faintly sinister ostinato that smacks of Italian Futurism and its Intonarumori.
Part III is the longest and the only time when the approach starts to seem a little mannered, though what Herbert effectively does is create a virtual rhythm section for the duo. Rava is more Miles Davis-like here, but without his distinctive rasp. The short fourth section allows the electronics to dominate: machine sounds that give way to crashing piano chords and flugelhorn yelps. Part V might be described as elegiacally defiant. There’s an air of sorrow, too: The record is dedicated to Mario Guidi—the pianist’s father and trumpeter’s manager—who attended the concerts but subsequently died. There’s also anger and determination, but wholly integrated and coherent.
For Mario (Live): Parts I–V. (42:20)
Personnel: Enrico Rava, flugelhorn, trumpet; Giovanni Guidi, piano; Matthew Herbert, samples, electronics.