For sure composer and percussionist Andrea Centazzo doesn’t remember the naive letter sent to him circa thirty years ago by a very young man asking for the eventual availability to publish the foolish dabbling of an unknown Roman improviser – namely, the same person – on his Ictus imprint. The reply was gently pragmatic, as he proceeded to explain that the label was folding due to consistent investments in records by important improvisers that didn’t receive an adequate response from the public. Italy was already hopelessly behind in the early 80s: internet and one-click buys far away in the future, intelligence and good taste thoroughly indefinite concepts in a country irremediably infiltrated by mafia and masonry, entities that fuse political parties from left, right and centre in a spectacular money-laundering apparatus. Then like now.
Luckily Centazzo has been able to resurrect the brand, having definitively established a base abroad. This quintet, comprising himself with trumpeter Dave Ballou, bassist Daniel Barbiero, pianist Nobu Stowe and reedist Achille Succi, features ten tracks in which the nominal leader’s compositions are alternated with improvisations conceived for different combinations of players that, in any case, follow a series of directives to achieve the goal of “a holistic path to jazz, classical music, world music in a blend of genres and atmospheres”. A near-generalist statement that nevertheless describes the ensuing sonic outcome quite well.
The highest risk in improvisation is always there, and it’s called debauchery. This danger is almost entirely avoided in Moon In Winter: the pieces maintain the percussive traits in evidence for the large part, being structured according to unequivocal designs that let the single instruments shine as the melodic materials reveal their intelligibility. However, the parts that I prefer are the ones in which the instrumentalists manage to mesh colours in spurts and auras, generating contrapuntal flashes on the spot, following intuitions that lead them towards unforeseen territories. A sort of real-time chamber jazz that produces brilliant results in episodes such as “Absolutely Elsewhere”; also notable are the three chapters of “Winter Duet”, and the opening “Moon In Winter I” (which, rather unjustifiably, made me think about Oregon). The album as a whole is an intriguing, if not exactly pioneering proposition, confirming that the interest in Andrea Centazzo’s work had a reason to exist even when my twenties were still to come.