Claudio Scolari | Principal Records (2018)
JULY 4, 2018
Natural Impulse is the title for the third, full-length project between Italian improvisational drummers Claudio Scolari and Daniele Cavalca, a completely apt description of how they approach their art. Along with Scolari’s son Simone Scolari on trumpet, the three improvisational maestros from Italy pull in elements of jazz, blues, neo-classical and experimental into a brew that makes all those labels I just attributed to it superfluous.
The basic method is the same as they undertook on Colors of red island and Synthesis: Create colorful motifs with improvisation blended into them nearly seamlessly. Sprinkle in a little synthesizer here, electric bass there, vibraphone and a smattering of other instruments applied liberally. A diffused and melodious sound with the percussive elements provided by Claudio Scolari and Cavalca are pushed way up front and center.

Natural Impulse would be fine just following that prescription again, since the music they create is not quite like anyone else’s. But there’s also an evolution going on here. Melodies are often not outright played, they are implied. By sketching out the harmonic components surrounding the chord progression, the outlines of the song are delineated, leaving the listeners to fill in the void themselves.
A conversation erupts between trumpet, bass, piano, synth and two drum sets on “Unknown Destination” and yet the song has a lot of open air in it. Cavalca’s electric bass occasionally states the underlying chord progression, but occasionally is all that’s needed because the other instruments all play around it. Simone flutters above the double drummers churning down below on “Chasing Inspiration,” as low-end synth shapes occupy the approximate area usually filled in by a bass. He sports an effects-laden horn on “Uptown Night Trip” that also features the dueling drummers and a wandering Fender Rhodes; a lot of ingredients found in Miles Davis’ early fusion period but put together differently. “Insomnia” likewise breathes freely despite the presence of two drummers. Though there’s no definable melody, the vibes and trumpet discreetly teases out “When I Fall In Love” here and there.

“American Skyscrapers” is a blues that boasts some lively interplay between Simone Scolari and Cavalca on vibes as the elder Scolari maintains a thunderous groove at a quicker tempo, calling to mind the time keeping experiments of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. This time, Cavalca plays the basic parameters of a melody with a piano. “Natural Impulse” is one of the few spots where a sharply definable theme (from Cavalca’s piano) is drawn out, but before long, Cavalca is going on instinct, culminating into a brief, free breakdown with Claudio prior to returning to the theme.
Alien contours generated from a synthesizer establish the arid character of “Moon Mood,” where the synth is also a solo instrument vying with Simone’s trumpet on equal terms, and the tense, choppy shapes on “South Hemisphere” doesn’t interfere with the looseness by which the song is played.
Like their prior projects, you could call Natural Impulse ‘jazz’ for a number of reasons but in the end it just sounds like two (sometimes three) guys following their instincts to make music that’s both unpredictable and inviting. And they have only gotten better at doing that.