D’Andrea, Tommaso, Tonani: Modern Art Trio

Reissue of 1970 Italian trio album that sought to find new forms for jazz rather than simply tear down the old in the manner of the New Thing


A cracking reissue this, complete with a 21-page booklet with good black and white photographs and a detailed sleeve note in Italian and English from Luca Bragalini.

In their day Italy’s Modern Art Trio were big news: a 1971 poster here of the fourth Milan Jazz Festival finds them in the exalted company of The Jazz Giants (with, a. o., Gillespie and Stitt, Monk and Blakey) and the Ornette Coleman Quartet; plus the groups of Miles Davis, Gato Barbieri and Phil Woods as well as Dexter Gordon and Johnny Griffin.

Like that festival, this music from the Modern Art Trio strikes a stimulating balance between matters old and new. Gershwin’s Ain’t Necessarily So is here, given the sort of blistering uptempo and cross-phrased roasting that brings to mind both the “un poco loco” fire of Bud Powell and the explosive sustained structural intensity of Cecil Taylor, with excellent contributions from Tommaso (b) and Tonani (d). Hear also URW and Beatwitz , which for all their free energy and overall imagination, in good part swing like hell.

Luca Bragalini’s erudite sleeve note focuses on eliciting the differences between the tearing down of structure in much of the so-called New Thing of the 60s and the search for distinctive methods or modes of inspiration and organisation by the Modern Art Trio: e.g., serialist structures, fixed nuclei of intervals, and offsetting “heteronomic” rhythm with both mood-setting and directional “sound-colour” from trumpet, soprano saxophone and songwhistle.

Hear the latter stages of the extraordinary Beatwitz, or, in contrast, the atemporal washes of electric piano and arco bass – somewhat reminiscent of the earliest days of Weather Report – in the initial phases of the extraordinary, shape-shifting Un Posto All ‘Ombra. This also features some laidback and funky electric piano action from D’Andrea, suitably sprung by his cohorts.

Instructive as Bragalini is, you don’t need to sense or look for any specific intellectual underpinning to relish this constantly captivating music, played by three top-class and totally wired musicians and as passionate as it is ultra-intelligent. The “progressive” values of Italy’s Modern Art Trio have stood the test of time a whole lot better than those of many a pundit or politician, past and present.

URW; Frammento; Un Posto All ‘Ombra; Ain’t Necessarily So; Echi; Beatwitz (47.31)
Franco D’Andrea (p, elp, ss); Bruno Tommaso (b); Franco Tonani ( d, t, songwhistle). Rome, 17-18 April 1970.
Gleam Records AM 110001