Barre Phillips/Giancarlo Nino Locatelli: Danze Degli Scorpioni

Freely improvised 2008 duet between bassist Phillips and clarinettist Locatelli is dedicated to 'Coleman Hawkins, master improviser'


Barre Phillips was born in San Francisco in 1934. After meeting Ornette Coleman, in 1962 he moved to New York, playing free jazz with Don Ellis, Archie Shepp and Paul Bley. In 1963-5 he was a member of Jimmy Giuffre’s trio. Finding European audiences more receptive, he moved to London where he worked with John Stevens and Evan Parker. He then settled in the south of France.

Phillips 1968 solo album, Journal Violone, was the first for improvised solo double-bass. He was a member of The Trio with John Surman and Stu Martin (1969–72), and collaborated with film-makers and visual artists. In 1988 he played with Company, and in the 90s recorded and toured in a trio with Paul Bley and Evan Parker, which made two ECM albums, Time Will Tell and Sankt Gerold. The bassist later collaborated with Joe and Mat Maneri on two ECM discs, Tales Of Rohnlief and Angles Of Repose.

This album was recorded in 2008, and is dedicated to “Coleman Hawkins, master improviser”. Phillips was joined clarinettist Giancarlo Nino Locatelli at Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon festival. Locatelli, born 1961, is an Italian jazz and free improviser, who’s worked with Steve Lacy, Paul Lovens, Peter Kowald, Elliott Sharp, Zeena Parkins and Wadada Leo Smith. Lacy’s work has been a constant in his career, and in 2018 he released Situations: Giancarlo “Nino” Locatelli Plays Steve Lacy.

Phillips calls their meeting “dark moon music”, his wordplay on the French Full Moon Ensemble that recorded in 1970 with Archie Shepp. But he concluded after this performance that “We are not a band in the marketplace”, so the duo did not persist. It’s first-rate free improv, and it seems that Phillips was a free improviser as early as anyone was. However, I’ve always found his playing rather cold, despite its evident virtuosity and imaginativeness. This album therefore leaves me feeling rather conflicted. But it’s an excellent example of the output of a major figure in improvised music.

Dance Of The Scorpions No. 1; Dark Moon Dance One; Dark Moon Dance Two; Dance Of The Scorpions No. 2. (50.23)
Phillips (b); Locatelli (cl). Ulrichsberg, 2 May 2008.
We Insist! Records CDWEIN 23