Enzo Favata Quartet: The Crossing Piccolo Tent, George Square, Edinburgh, 16 July 2019.

On the back of an extensive tour through the Far East with this quartet, multi-instrumentalist musical maverick Enzo Favata landed at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival with a characteristically thoughtful, cross-culturally informed and searching electro-acoustic set.

Favata hails from Alghero on the island of Sardinia, his expertise covering traditional Sardinian music and instruments. A roving musical mind, he has composed film music, experimented with electronics and recorded word, and it comes as no surprise that he has collaborated over the years with many other artists who likewise show a great propensity for being curious about musical possibilities, such as Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset and the late, greatly missed Italian-born, Norway- residing drummer, Paolo Vinaccia.

Indeed, Favata’s much lauded 1990’s Jana Project blended musical genres – world musics and jazz improvisation – using both acoustic instruments and samplers. All these interests were evident in tonight’s performance.

Two of the current quartet were unchanged from Favata’s Global Report Quartet: drummer of heft UT Gandhi and maestro of mallets Pasquale Mira on vibraphone, marimba and electronics. Meanwhile newby Rosa Brunello gave sound bass guitar support, whilst Favata shifted easily between saxes, bass clarinet and electronics.

Tonight’s concert was thus fascinatingly rich and could only have been bettered if we the audience had spoken Italian or Favata spoken English, in order to hear explanations before each tune, particularly those which included what sounded like old recordings of spoken Italian. Or maybe this ‘not knowing’ was part of a cunning plan?

Interestingly, unlike some sax players, Favata did not feel the need to overtly dominate proceedings, seeming content to be a group player, for example generously giving Brunello ample space for a marginally over-long meditative guitar solo. Electronics echoes and looping were used, particularly by Favata and Mira, with mostly enhancing effect throughout the predominantly acoustic set.

A few of the early evening audience left a bit early, suggesting that the quartet were doing a good job at challenging us with their creative and mildly risk-taking set. Also perhaps programming this band later in the evening might have attracted an audience with different levels of curiosity.

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