Claudio Scolari | Principal Records (2012)

By Bill Kohlhaase Dec 13, 2013

Equal parts minimalism, quirky instrumentation, and simple thematic material, this recording from Italian percussionist Claudio Scolari is a surprise in its accessible charm and unexpected new music complications. Simone Scolari’s trumpet provides the focus on the seven numbers, while drummer Scolari and multiinstrumentalist Daniele Cavalca employ synthesizers and, in Cavalca’s case, melodica, vibraphone, and bass to give the trio a big, eclectic sound. The title tune — simple trumpet lines run against a repeated, fading synthesizer chord; curt, clashing vibraphone lines; and a finger-snapping mix of percussion — provides a cool introduction to the varied program. “Expression of Image” begins on tones and lyricism that suggest Joe Zawinul’s title tune from Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way before the synthesizers are joined by Cavalca’s moody melodica. These atmospherics are soon replaced by a repeated synth figure, waggressive percussion, and exchanges between trumpet and some of the most inventive melodica ever heard. The recording’s longest piece, “Dialogue,” the closest thing to a straight jazz tune on the disc, employs tasteful piano phrases and an ever-changing yet facile bass line in framing a wild mix of percussive variations. “Fragments of Autumn” is the collection’s moodiest piece, and “Hymn of the Inventions” is a spare showcase for Cavalca’s lyrical melodica play. Though recorded a bit thin, Synthesis is worth seeking out. It’s not the same old thing.