Andrea Centazzo / U.S.A. CONCERTS


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The Italian imprint, Ictus, was founded in 1976 by percussionist and composer, Andrea Centazzo, and his wife Carla Lugli. Running for just under a decade, until relaunching during the mid-2000s, the label produced a couple of dozen highly highly celebrated releases, the majority of which loosely fall under the banner of free jazz. Ictus’ second batch of releases from the label’s historic archives logically begins with Andrea Centazzo’s “U.S.A. Concerts”, originally issued in 1978 and out of print on vinyl for the majority of the time since.

“U.S.A. Concerts” draws on the same rough period when Centazzo was working in the United States as “Environment for Sextet”, which was reissued in the previous Ictus batch, and features many of the same players – Polly Bradfield on violin, Eugene Chadbourne on guitar, Tom Cora on cello, and Toshinori Kondo on trumpet, and John Zorn on saxophone – in different configurations. In fact, the first, second, and seventh tracks – “Sextet Improvisation”, “Duet Improvisation # 1”, “Duet Improvisation # 4” – were all recorded on the same day at the same location – WKCR Radio in New York on November 7, 1978 – as the aforementioned album.

Beginning with the brilliant textural and tonal explorations of the full ensemble encountered in “Sextet Improvisation”, the album quickly moves toward quieter and more restrained investigations of roughly similar ground, moving through a series of duo improvisations between the percussionist and Eugene Chadbourne, Tom Cora, and the under-celebrated saxophonist, Jack Wright, whose howling horn is transformed to otherworldly effect by the reverberance of the space within which he works. From here Centazzo embraces the trio form with an improvisation with two more under-celebrated figures from the American scene – Davey Williams playing guitar and banjo, and LaDonna Smith on violin, viola, and voice – capturing a performance in Jackson, Mississippi on November 19, 1978, during which the three fire responsive statements that hang like barbs in the spacious air, before conceding the LP with a brilliant suite of duos with Toshinori Kondo, Williams, and Smith.

Offering incredible insight into Centazzo’s unique sensibility, as well as into the work of a new generation of stunning improvisers as they emerged at the tail end of the 70s, before going on to help define the 80s free jazz sound, “U.S.A. Concerts” is a crucial artefact of free music at the juncture; fire on the boundaries of outright noise. An endlessly surprising journey between shifting between airy open passages that feature striking combinations of players, it’s sure to knock the socks off more than a few well-seasoned fans. Issued in a limited editions of 250 copies that beautifully reproduces the original 1978 release, it’s not to be missed.



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