Tuba Libre

Giancarlo Schiaffini
Tuba Libre

Trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini appeared on the Italian free jazz scene in the 60s as a member of Gruppo Romano Free Jazz.  A physicist by training, he didn’t leave his day job till the 70s.  Since then he’s appeared in a bewildering variety of settings from klezmer to contemporary classical.  He’s probably best known as a member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra, appearing as composer and soloist on the band’s recent Enja album Litania Sibilante (reviewed The Wire 203).  In the ranks of this loose aggregation he stands out, with his long grey beard looking like an older Jerry Garcia.

Now it turns out the trombonist has been hiding his considerable talents on tuba.  “The sound is actually richer and in some ways easier to articulate than the trombone”, he explains, “though it is a less agile instrument and one in which it is more difficult to produce a variety of colours”.  For this reason solo tuba albums have been rare.  But Tuba Libre, his first solo CD and the first recording exclusively on tuba under his own name, surmounts the instrument’s limitations triumphantly.  In many ways this is the most outstanding of the very impressive and aesthetic clutch of releases from Georg Graewe’s Random
Acoustics label (others were reviewed “In Brief Jazz”, The Wire 203).

All titles are in Spanish, and the sleeve-note confusingly gives the album-title as “Cuba Libre” or “Free Cuba”, claiming an expression of Schiaffini’s left sympathies, shared with straight composer Luigi Nono with whom he worked in the 80s.  (…That’s the last time I use “straight” in this way.)  An email to Schiaffini requesting clarification elicited more puns and puzzlement, but confirmed that “Tuba Libre” is the correct title.  The title-track counterpoints two tuba lines, a dancing melody and a riff, before moving into more contemplative territory.  In case the listener had been lulled into relaxation, “Scrap” is interrupted with a crashing noise-chords, the tuba lines angular and bluesy.  “El Carrosel De Juana La Loca” is a multi-layered, disintegrating waltz, while “El Vuelo Irrestibile Del Moscardon” produces an effect from the tuba almost like a soprano voice.  Throughout, the electronic soundworld takes on the veiled, often haunting quality of the instrument itself.  Through a totally musical approach to electronics, Schiaffini has produced an extraordinary synthesis of Improv and contemporary composition.

Random Acoustics
PO Box 301070
D – 5078  Koln
W www.randomacoustics.de