By Carlo Wolff | Published May 2019
This unpredictable and entertaining album by bassist Rosa Brunello and her group boldly appropriates progressive rock and jazz fusion styles in its complex tunes. The atmospherics created by the troupe provides the arc that carries Shuffle Mode from its open-ended start to its peaceful conclusion.
But the recording is incohesive by design, ands its title suggests that the Italian bandleader wants listeners to experience it in any way they see fit. Brunello’s tunes cover character sketches like “Il Barone Rampante” and the haunting “Tituz Rocks,” two of the more leisurely and linear works. But she’s also comfortable luxuriating in cacophony on “Before Falling Asleep” or going guileless and elastic on “Pure,” a showcase for tenor saxophonist Michele Polga and drummer Luca Colussi.
“White Hair” sums up Brunello’s approach to composition: Polga and Martino start deliberately, only to be interrupted by the bandleader’s synthesizer. A melody struggles to break through the rhythm, punctuated by Brunello’s enthusiastic bass thwocks; Martino finally prevails to deliver a pyrotechnic guitar solo. Each iteration of the ascending melody adds to its assertiveness, though toward the end, the musicians seem to wander off, retreating into electronics. Yet the tune is not over, thanks to Martino’s effects and Colussi’s fevered drumming. Brunello doesn’t give up easily, either.
The album ends pensively—and all too soon—as Polga and guitarist Frank Martino intertwine on “Running In The Clouds,” bringing calm after all turbulence.
Shuffle Mode: Shuffle Mode; Be Human; Pure; White Hair; Tituz Rock; Before Falling Asleep; New Chapter; Il Barone Rampante; Running In The Clouds. (42:38)
Personnel: Rosa Brunello, bass, electric bass, synthesizer, vocals; Luca Colussi, drums; Frank Martino, guitar, drum machine; Michele Polga, tenor saxophone.