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Album Review

Even in the 21st century, there are still some acoustic snobs who believe that the term "electric free jazz" is an oxymoron. They insist that free-form improvisation loses its power and its intimacy the minute rock influences and electric instruments enter the picture. But as Ornette Coleman & Prime Time, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, James Blood Ulmer, and so many others have demonstrated, electric instruments and rock elements (and funk elements as well) can enhance the free jazz experience — which is precisely what happens on Protoplasmic. This 2008 session finds Italian vocalist Boris Savoldelli forming a duo with American guitarist Elliott Sharp, and together they remind listeners how compelling electric free jazz can be. With Savoldelli on vocals and live electronics (no overdubs are used) and Sharp on electric guitar, electronics, and the occasional sax, Protoplasmic has plenty of rock muscle. But for all its intensity and aggression, Protoplasmic also offers a lot of nuance. It should be noted that Savoldelli doesn't perform any actual lyrics on Protoplasmic; all of his singing is wordless, and Savoldelli shows himself to be an expressive scat singer on abstract, stream-of-consciousness offerings such as "Black Floyd," "A Meeting in a Park," "Noises in My Head," and "Dig It." Clearly, Savoldelli doesn't need lyrics to express himself emotionally; he gets along without them just fine. And even though many jazz enthusiasts associate scat singing primarily with bop, swing, and Dixieland, Savoldelli's performances demonstrate that scatting can also be relevant to electric avant-garde jazz-rock (or "free rock" if you prefer). Savoldelli and Sharp are very much in sync throughout the consistently absorbing Protoplasmic.

Protoplasmic, Boris Savoldelli & Elliott Sharp
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