Italian Instabile Orchestra

Italian Instabile Festival
Leo / CDLR262/263

Carlo Actis Dato – tenor and baritone sax, bass clarinet / Daniele Cavallanti – tenor and baritone sax / Eugenio Colombo – soprano and alto sax, flute / Paolo Damiani – cello, double bass / Giovanni Maier – double bass / Alberto Mandarini – trumpet / Martin Mayes – french horn / Guido Mazzon – trumpet / Vincenzo Mazzone – percussion, tympani / Pino Minafra – trumpet, flugel horn, megaphone / Umberto Petrin – piano / Lauro Rossi – trombone / Giancarlo Schiaffini – trombone, tuba / Tiziano Tononi – drums, percussion / Sebi Tramontana – trombone / Gianluigi Trovesi – alto sax, piccolo, alto and bass clarinet / Emanuele Parrini – violin

Forget the old schtick about the Italian Instabile Orchestra being the most important big jazz band in Italy. They’re one of the most important, full stop, even if, by sheer geo-political misfortune, they are also horribly underrated outside their native country. They’re captured here at a festival organised in their honour, in a range of different groupings from full orchestra down to a couple of solo spots.


The small groupings are surprisingly varied. Some are jazzy and even quite Romantic, as in the two duets involving pianist Geremia. These, devoid of chord changes as they are, are closer to the cool jazz experiments with freedom than the energy music for which this group of musicians has come to be more notorious. Other groups do, however, move into more conventionally “free improv” ground, and do so very successfully, notably a brass quintet which promises knotty, abstract music which it duly delivers.

The orchestral tracks are hot jazz workouts with a hint of Mingus and a dash of Gil Evans. While the head arrangements are often rumbustuous, harmonically complex affairs, the group then normally breaks down to provide a less structured basis for the freewheeling solos which predominate. Of course, players like Pino Minafra and Carlo Actis Dato rise to the occasion as expected, but players who are less-known, at least here in the UK, also acquit themselves extremely well.

Given that this is a live recording of one of the most raucous acts around, the sound quality is immaculate. Only on the final track does the sheer volume get the better of the recording equipment so that it ends up sounding like a bootleg of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band — not in itself a bad thing, naturally. Packaged with a generous booklet full of articles, reviews and pictures, this double-CD set is an excellent document as well as a hugely enjoyable listen. Richard Cochrane