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The Giancarlo Nicolai Trio and John Tchicai

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Album Review

This truly strange phenomenon of a band was put together after legendary saxophonist John Tchicai made a phone call to guitarist Giancarlo Nicholai before a gig and asked him to sit in because his own band couldn't make it through the snow. The set worked out so well that the two other members of Nicholai's regular trio, drummer Uelli Müller and bassist Thomas Durst, were added for a live recording date. The result is a session ripe with free-flowing enthusiasm and energy. Given its informality, it's amazing how well-rehearsed the band sounds, especially on the more structured tunes — which happen to be Tchicai compositions — "Mushi Miyake" and "Nu Skal du Komme." Alto and guitar trade lines and alternate fragments of the melodic themes. Nicholai sculpts rich chord progressions that eke out the harmonic shadow from which Tchicai begins his polytonal ascent. Either ballad or bombast, it makes no difference, there is a sensibility and multi-layered textualism inherent in each of these selections. There is also a great empathy between Nicholai and Tchicai; each understands and has reverence for melodic invention and the ballad without being ensnared or enslaved by them. Swing erupts from silence and shuddering quiet pours forth from improvisatory ferocity, as on "Puppetboy" and "Puppetdreams," by Nicholai. Nicholai is, like Brad Shepik, a breath of fresh air on the guitar. He is unbound by sonic or stylistic conventions even though he plays the electric guitar. His effects pedals fit the music and never overshadow it. It can be said that, like his American counterpart, he is indeed inventing a new language for the electric guitar that can be adapted to virtually any medium. Here, styles are all muddled as Tchicai leads the way through Italian folk song, bebop, free jazz, rock, Asian modalities, Danish folk music, and even African polyrhythmic tonalities, underscored by the sheer punchiness and adaptability of the rhythm section. This is a solid date and features one of Tchicai's best performances in the last 20 years. It is a title that should not be ignored in the vast reaches of Leo's catalog or in the jazz canon at large.


Born: 28 April 1936 in Copenhagen, Denmark

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Saxophonist John Tchicai was best known for his time in New York during the height of the '60s free jazz explosion, but he actually spent the majority of his career advancing the cause of avant-garde jazz in Northern Europe. Tchicai was born April 28, 1936, in Copenhagen to a Danish mother and Congolese father; he began playing violin at age ten, switched to both clarinet and alto sax at 16, and focused on the latter at Denmark's Conservatory of Music. In the late '50s, Tchicai began making the rounds...
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The Giancarlo Nicolai Trio and John Tchicai, John Tchicai
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