Antonello Losacco with Strings: Respira

In a variation on the jazz plus strings idea, Italian bassist Losacco and pianist Francesco Schepisi apply jazz tropes to the string quartet


String arrangements featuring jazz soloists were a ploy to take the musicians away from their natural setting and place them in what was hoped would be a more commercial one. Sometimes, as with Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, it worked well in crystallising their essence and encouraging typical flair.

This album by the Italian bassist and composer Antonello Losacco is different: it features tunes by him and pianist Francesco Schepisi with a string quartet and guest double-bass player Giuseppe Bassi. Losacco is a multi-stylist. At a stretch, therefore, one might say this is not so much a jazz album, more one in which a jazz musician’s feeling for how jazz tropes fit into non-jazz formats results in something musically rich but indefinable.

That’s magnified by the extra-musical associations of several charts. For La Terra E Gli Uomini, Losacco is joined by Bassi for an explorative duo inspired by a call for help to Earth from a spaceship and the cosmic awareness such a situation engenders. The two are also in harness on Dove Sei, another Losacco chart, in this case depicting loss – not the loss of friend or relative but “the condition in which one can find oneself before the end of existence, where contact with reality becomes intermittent, memories of childhood and suffered or presumed wrongs are mixed, and the present loses form and meaning”.

These are words from the liner notes of Angelo Mastronardi and presumably have Losacco’s blessing or were his to begin with. Music can easily be described as “ruminative”, and that applies to the whole of this album, but the details of musing are less easy to clarify. One of the explanations for the cinematic quality on display here may be that film supplies the detail that gives the meaning to film music. It’s easier to link the eponymous Respira, the only solo number played by Losacco on seven-string bass and written during lockdown, with post-Covid emancipation.

Almaluna; Alberto’s Thing; The Journey; La Terra E Gli Uomini; I Tuoi Occhi; Dove Sei; Way Home; Way Home The Return; Ricordi?; Respira (52.05)
Losacco (b, elb); Francesco Schepisi (p); Luisiana Lorusso, Giulia Gentile (vn); Rosanna Dell’Olio (vla); Giovanni Astorino (clo); Giuseppe Bassi (b). Bari, February 2020.
Gleam Records AM 7012