ITALIAN INSTABILE ORCHESTRA

Picture: ITALIAN INSTABILE ORCHESTRA

















Eugenio COLOMBO - soprano and alto sax, flute
Gianluigi TROVESI - alto sax, piccolo, alto and bass clarinet
Carlo ACTIS DATO - tenor and baritone sax, bass clarinet
Daniele CAVALLANTI - tenor and baritone sax
Alberto MANDARINI - trumpet
Guido MAZZON - trumpet
Pino MINAFRA - trumpet, flugel horn, megaphone
Martin MAYES - french horn
Lauro ROSSI - trombone
Sebi TRAMONTANA - trombone
Giancarlo SCHIAFFINI - trombone, tuba
Umberto PETRIN - piano
Emanuele PARRINI - violin
Paolo DAMIANI - cello, double bass
Giovanni MAIER - double bass
Tiziano TONONI - drums, percussion
Vincenzo MAZZONE - percussion, timpani

HISTORY AND ANECDOTES
by Francesco Martinelli (Translated by M. Mayes)

It was a conversation between Pino Minafra, Vittorino Curci and Riccardo Bergerone in preparation for the 1990 Festival di Noci which led to the idea of the Italian Instabile Orchestra. The orchestra's first concert took place at this festival with a programme of short pieces written specially for the occasion, in-cluding an arrangement of Lover Man by Schiaffini and featuring Gioconda Cilio's intense voice. But it was a concert which would have been forgotten by practically one and all (including the press) if it hadn't been for Minafra's bull-headedness: he decided to bring the orchestra back together again the following year for the 1991 Festival. This time things were different. Both the press and festival organisers from outside Italy responded positively to the changes. The repertoire was richer with the addition of Schiaffi-ni's Tuba Libre, Tommaso's I Virtuosi di Noci and Gaslini's Pierrot Solaire. There were a few changes in the line-up and Gaslini and Tommaso's vast experience added overall musical weight. I Virtuosi di Noci is a brilliant piece where more ponderous sections give way to moments of delicate humour such as when Schiano sings the Neapolitan song Munasterio e' Santa Chiara. The programme presented at this second concert is the one to be found on the orchestra's first CD issued by the English label Leo Records; the re-cordings used for the CD are taken from live recordings made at the 1991 Noci Festival and at the Insta-bile's first performance abroad at the 1992 Rive de Gier Festival in France (Live in Noci and Rive de Gier). With a further 5 concerts abroad in France, Germany and Switzerland, 1992 is the year when the orchestra takes off and makes it mark on the European jazz scene. Encouraged by the concerts and the success of the CD the air of uncertainty about the potential and musical direction which had occasionally prevailed within the group gradually gave way to that sense of amalgam necessary for paving the way to-wards greater maturity.
1993 was a difficult year. There were few concerts but they were all highly successful from the Le Mans Festival in France to Controindicazioni in Rome. The next big leap forward came in 1994 with the deci-sion of the German label ECM to produce a CD of the orchestra. This decision was also something of a novelty for ECM, given that the ECM house style tends to prefer the frozen landscapes of the north as evoked by Jan Garbarek or the dazzling virtuosic rhapsodies of Keith Jarrett. The English journalist Steve Lake took the project in hand and the recordings were carried out in Florence in May 1994 and the CD came out in 1995. This striking CD contains only two large scale compositions: Skies of Europe by Gaslini and Il Maestro Muratore by Tommaso with Gaslini's piece being chosen to be the album title. It was presented at a crowded Teatro Ponchielli in Cremona - one of Italy's beautiful 18th century horseshoe theatres where it was an immediate success with the critics; it was warmly spoken of abroad and in the Italian magazine Musica Jazz's annual referendum it was awarded the prize of best CD of the year. It is a real accomplishment in which the differences between the two compositions emerge clearly: Gaslini's is more eclectic and fiery with the orchestra often broken up into small chamber music style groupings, like the saxophone quartet of the segment dedicated to Marlene Dietrich; Tommaso's is more emotional with extensive full scale orchestral writing showing off the Instabile in all its glory. Being a studio production, the technical quality is decidedly better than that of the first CD, but it remains debatable whether the "ECM sound" is really the most suitable for conveying the Mediterranean richness of the Instabile.
All such moments of achievement contain a hidden element of risk: was the Instabile to follow in the footsteps of many other groups and soloists and become so dazzled by its own success that it would want to imitate and repeat its image as created by the recording? It was soon apparent that this was not to happen. In the middle of riding on the crest of this wave of success with invitations flowing in from all round Italy and Europe, the Instabile, being true to its own name, underwent some major internal changes.
1996 was this year of change: after a period of doubt Gaslini finally left the orchestra to dedicate himself to his personal projects and Umberto Petrin came in to replace him. Next came the arrival of the trumpeter Enrico Rava who somehow manage to find space in his crowded schedule to join the Instabile in its adventures. In the space of two concerts it was unanimously and mutually agreed that he should become a full time member of the orchestra. It is indeed a magic moment for Rava where it seems everything he touches turns to gold: his opera projects; his acoustic and electric groups; and his collaborations with lea-ding jazz musicians from both sides of the Atlantic. On being asked why he had added the Instabile to this profusion of other commitments, Rava simply replied that he was quite fascinated by the Instabile. And this is not the first time in his career that he has been involved in similar projects, the most important of which have been the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, the Globe Unity Orchestra and the European Orchestra of Cecil Taylor.
It is worth singling out from all the other moments of the Instabile's career the fact that Musica Jazz's re-ferendum has acclaimed the orchestra as best group of the year three times: in 1992, 1994 and 1995. It has acted as a springboard for young musicians such as the trumpeter Alberto Mandarini (who unfortunately can't be present at Pisa due to conflicting concerts with Paolo Conte's orchestra).
After seven years of intense activity recognition has still to come from most of the major Italian festivals which present main stream jazz. Yet the Instabile has clearly become a force to be reckoned with both at home and abroad and it has amply fulfilled the objectives set by its founders. Marcello Lorrai sums it up thus: "Minafra's idea was to bring together a pool of improvisers who had not only studied jazz's rich patrimony with love but who had also learned jazz's lesson of non-conformity, that is to say, musicians who are not concerned with orthodox rules but who are totally open-minded. He wanted an orchestra which would have its own voice but at the same time provide both a focus which would allow musician's individual voice to emerge and a means for stopping the dissipation of energies - a truly Italian hallmark".


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