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Piccoli Numeri by Walter Beltrami / Roberto Bordriga / Emanuele Maniscalco

"Piccoli Numeri" ('Small Numbers') is a rather unassuming sort of title for a jazz CD, but it fits right in with Walter Beltrami's less-is-more approach. His bandmates include a fantastic young drummer, Emanuele Maniscalco who has worked extensively with the great Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava; and bassist Roberto Bordriga who, like Beltrami, has an exceptionally fat, rich tone and total command of his instrument. This is actually the trio's second recording, the first ("WB3" on the Philology label) came out in 2004 and consisted primarily of well-known jazz compositions by Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Bill Evans, and others. During the four intervening years, Beltrami, Bordriga, and Maniscalco have redirected their sound in a startlingly different direction.

The majority of the all-original tunes on "Piccoli Numeri" are intimate, pensive ballads and slowly-developing moderate tempo excursions that edge toward free jazz but never quite get there. Salient reference points would be the many great guitarist-led sessions on the ECM label, such as Pat Metheny's 'Bright Size Life,' Bill Frisell's 'Rambler,' Terje Rypdal's 'What Comes After,' and any number of John Abercrombie's recordings - especially those he made with the sublime Gateway trio. Expanding this slightly, one could surmise that Beltrami is also influenced by other artists whose music is characterized by the creative use of space and silence, such as Barre Philips, Paul Bley, and Derek Bailey. This is not to say that Beltrami is in any way derivative of these artists, but he is certainly shooting for a similar sort of feeling in his music - dark, musing, philosophical, and content not to push too hard to make a grand statement. Yet, as "Piccoli Numeri" amply proves, Beltrami's music communicates a variety of emotions and feelings in a most profound way.

The opening two tracks ('Blind Dancers' and 'Tormento') are dark, thoughtful and quite beautiful ballads, but each has its share of abstract and odd moments. 'Ingmar' and the title track are even darker and more desolate, though 'You See' hews toward the sentimental, elegaic end of the ballad spectrum. The more uptempo pieces are played with the same sort of mellow grace that illuminates the many ballads. 'Verbal Realities' has Beltrami playing a menacing Ornette-like theme with a fat, distorted tone over a bed of roiling, turbulent bass and drums. After a rubato introduction, 'Ordet' picks up to a 4/4 gallop for Beltrami's fine solo. Maniscalco's steady, almost martial drumming on 'Table Lamp' sets the scene for adventurous, interactive improvisations by both Beltrami and Bordriga, who sounds quite a bit like a young David Holland here. Bordriga also shines on 'I Knew We Would Meet,' a sweet 4/4 romp that is perhaps the most conventionally jazz-like tune on the CD. The last track ('The Letter') is an odd yet engaging multitracked or looped solo piece that takes off one of the lines he used in the CD's opening track. Either way, it shows another side of Beltrami's artistry that bodes particularly well for his future as a creative musician. Superb.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Walter Beltrami / Roberto Bordriga / Emanuele Maniscalco
  • CD Title: Piccoli Numeri
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Cam Jazz
  • Tracks: Blind Dancers, Tormento, Preghiera, Ordet, You See, Verbal Realities, Table Lamp, Ingmar, I Knew We Would Meet, Piccoli Numeri, The Letter
  • Musicians: Walter Beltrami (electric guitar), Roberto Bordriga (acoustic bass), Emanuele Maniscalco (drums, percussion)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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