Italian reeds player Marco Colonna is a fascinating figure whose music hovers in a zone between jazz, free improvisation, avant-rock and even less definable sounds. His primary instrument is the bass clarinet, though he plays other members of that family as well as the sopranino saxophone and various percussion instruments. He’s recorded solo, with electronic loops; he has a group, the Rahsaan Trio, in which he interprets the music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, playing multiple instruments at once as Kirk did; he has duo projects; and he has the group Noise of Trouble (perhaps named for the 1987 Last Exit album?), with which he has recently released Mis Sueños son Irrenunciables, Obstinados, Testarudos y Resistentes.
The group is a trio featuring Luca Corrado on baritone guitar and Cristian Lombardi on drums; Colonna plays B-flat clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, sopranino saxophone, conga, djembe bendir, riq, sanza (a mbira-like instrument) and various boxes and household objects. Roberto Ottaviano plays soprano sax on one track. They pack 12 tracks into 45 minutes, making a quick statement, expanding on it, then abandoning it in favor of the next idea. And while they definitely have a style and a voice, there’s a lot of variety here.
The album’s opening track, “Jellyfish,” lays Colonna’s clarinet over a twanging, repetitive guitar figure that erupts, after about 90 seconds, into a storm of distorted clanging and jagged outbursts that recall Marc Ribot‘s work on Tom Waits albums like 1985’s Rain Dogs. Meanwhile, Lombardi lays down a thumping, tumbling rhythm that also nods to Waits, as well as to mid ’80s Downtown jazz acts like the Lounge Lizards.
“The Meaning of Brotherhood” begins with at least three reeds puffing their way through a melody; it has the feel of a Julius Hemphill composition for the World Saxophone Quartet, or perhaps his own sextet. But after that relatively gentle intro, Colonna switches to just bass clarinet and Lombardi begins pounding out a tribal beat, accented with sharp-edged hi-hats. At one point, Colonna erupts in a powerful passage of circular breathing, notes spinning out with almost dizzying fluidity. After that, though, he changes things up again, spitting out sharp, declarative phrases like Shabaka Hutchings.
In the album’s final third, “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz” begins with subtle sonic trickery; two or three Colonna reed lines, intertwining like a Philip Glass chamber piece, are treated with hiss and static like they’re coming off an old 78. When the guitar and drums come in, though, they’re soaked in reverb and boom, instantly filling up the space and turning the composition into a kind of patient, mournful march. Subtle electronics fill in the background.
Mis Sueños… (translation: my dreams are unrenouncable, obstinate, stubborn and resistant) is a fascinating post-jazz album, avant-garde but hauntingly melodic and demonstrating a fluency in musical dialects presumed extinct or at least creatively moribund. I guarantee you haven’t heard anything like it this year.