Sergio Armaroli’s “Rib Music”

Armaroli

ARMAROLI: ElectroIntro. Rib Music. Lugano. Armaroli’s Hand. Day’s Word (Into the Night). Prometheus. This Meat of Music. I Dance. After Before Words. Chrysalis Corpse. Blues Negative. Buttonhole For Bullethead. In Response Though Not as This. Green in Blue(ette) / Sergio Armaroli, vib/prepared vib/gongs; Steve Day, narr / Leo Records CD LR 927

Sergio Armaroli is an Italian vibraphone player whose work in jazz spans both traditional and avant-garde forms; in this album, he collaborates with poet-speaker Steve Day on the title track, otherwise playing a series of complex originals. Although no percussionist is listed, there are clearly drum sounds on the opener, ElectroIntro, a fast-paced original with a meter so amorphous that even I couldn’t follow it on first listening…but it’s fascinating!

The first poem-with-music piece is the title track. British poet Steve Day recorded his narration of the poem in the UK, then sent it to Armaroli to add music to. It’s very much reminiscent of the poetry-with-jazz recordings made in the late 1950s, except, perhaps, that Day’s poem is more abstract than most; like Gertrude Stein, it’s more a collection of words that have a particularl rhythmic configuration without really meaning anything:

They had played each other’s ribs all night,
two bodies caught on rumba marimba.
Chromatic like the piano
keys pressed into service.
Strike with flicked fingers to find scale
A tiny tattoo of a kind of blue…

On this and other tracks including Day’s poetry, Armaroli plays what might be called creative counterpoint to the rhythm of his words. It’s kind of like a more abstract version of what the Chico Hamilton Quintet did behind Ken Nordine’s “word jazz” recordings. There’s definitely a bit of a Beat Era vibe going on here. On Lugano, for instance, Armaroli’s playing consists of a few constantly repeated licks, sometimes the same lick played in a slightly different rhythm, adding or subtracting a beat or half-beat as it goes along. On the purely instrumental tracks, such as Armaroli’s Hand, the vibist creates free-form musical shapes, and here his music is much more tonal in form though no less complex in rhythm.

Much of Armiroli’s music here is like this, both abstract yet with some sort of form, and although each is a separate composition, the whole runs together in the listener’s mind like a continuous piece with different sections. This is due primarily to the fact that both the keys chosen and the tempos are so similar from track to track. I do not wish to imply that it is repetitive—it clearly isn’t—but there is very little differentiation between the pieces, and perhaps this is its one drawback. A little more variety in tempo and tonality would have helped. We finally get a break in tempo and mood on the eighth track, I Dance; at least it’s something to vary the pace. On track 9, the instrumental After Before Words, Armaroli does vary the rhythm considerably, and the tempo is a bit faster, but the tonality is very close to the other pieces.

Nonetheless, the album holds your attention, particularly on the tracks including Day’s poetry. A great CD to listen to after you’ve been meditating or perhaps smoking a little weed.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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