The UK having now departed the European Union, it feels more important than ever for those of us here in Scotland who relish diversity in music, to maintain links with our musical family across the European continent. In this spirit Scottish Jazz Space presents Some Red Some Yellow, an album from Roberto Bonati and Tor Yttredal, that came out just a few months ago.
Though surprisingly little known in the UK, veteran double bass player-composer Roberto Bonati has since the 1980s been a major musical presence in his homeland, Italy. He is Artistic Director at ParmaJazz Frontiere Festival, runs the ParmaFrontiere Orchestra and the music label of the same name (and on which this album is released). Bonati also writes music for film and dance and is a frequent collaborator, notably of late with vocalist Diana Torto. He also somehow finds time for two roles at Parma’s Conservatorio di Musica Arrigo Boito: Professor of Jazz Composition and Improvisation and Head of the New Musical Technologies and Languages.
And whether as soloist or leader Bonati’s music has traversed multiple musical genres – European classical, non-European roots music, contemporary, jazz and improvisation – all of which musical labels are evoked in this album.
Joining Bonati on Some Red Some Yellow is his equally musically evolved friend and frequent collaborator (though this is their first duo), Norwegian saxophonist Tor Yttredal. Additionally on two of the tunes, Norwegian-American electronics musician and producer John Derek Bishop contributes some samples and field recordings.
Through-composed in part, most of the album sounds improvised – and interestingly is part of a research project on improvisation being conducted by Stavanger’s Faculty of Performing Arts. Consisting of fifteen tunes in all, the total playing time is just under 58 minutes. The majority are composed solely by Bonati. Many tracks are short such as the playfully entitled, perky To Byte Who, which at 1 minute 45 seconds begged to be developed further. In fact, much of the album felt like embryonic nuggets of improvisation each of which held promise, although it was the longer tracks, such as the over six minutes long title track which gave most satisfaction to this listener.
Notwithstanding the occasional out-there sax blurts (such as in the title track), dramatic percussion (Strokes) or referencing of mediaeval music (Invocatio), what was consistent throughout the album was a calm elegance, an absence of superfluity. Each phrase felt sufficient. From a Western Classical bedrock, slight gestures indicated where developments might occur at future live gigs. Furthermore, the connection between Bonati and Yttredal was as close as would be expected from two experienced searchers who self-evidently share a depth of thoughtfulness and wide range of musical references.
Bishop’s additional field recordings on Come pioggia nel mattino silente (Like rain on a silent morning) enhanced the lovely atmosphere of that track, whilst his low frequency electronic drone in the final Canto antico (Ancient song) added a mildly foreboding tinge to an otherwise wistful tune.
The album was further enriched by the quality of the sound, particularly that of the double bass, plaudits for which are richly deserved by sound recording and mix engineers, Domenico Vigliotti and Stefano Amerio respectively.
Despite the increased difficulties for UK musicians who wish to tour overseas, one hopes that it might still be feasible for Scottish improvisers to pursue collaborations with international colleagues such as Bonati and Yttredal. An Italian-Norwegian-Scottish collaboration: what a treat that would be!
Some Red Some Yellow was release several months ago on ParmaFrontiere, CD010