TS014

Perfect Quartet
Francesco Branciamore

When all the sounds adjoin as clearly as in the successful reconstruction of a Roman artefact, they become, without question, a perfect quartet.
Ken Waxman

FRANCESCO BRANCIAMORE – PERFECT QUARTET

1) Dryshot
2) Cristoff
3) Hurry
4) Tiptoe
5) Monky
6) Magic Moment
7) Double Phase

All compositions by Francesco Branciamore

Gaetano Cristofaro, saxes and clarinet
Elio Amato, trombone and flugelhorn
Giuseppe Guarrella, double bass
Francesco Branciamore, drums and compositions

recorded and mixed at SONORIA Recording Studio, Scordia (Catania/Italia) December 29th and 30th, 2001 by Vincenzo Cavalli

Photography: Salvo Branciamore

SOME REVIEWS:

"Présent depuis plus de vingt ans sur la scène italienne, le batteur sicilien Francesco Branciamore a connu un parcours éclectique qui lui a permis de côtoyer des musiciens aussi différents que Lee Konitz, Evan Parker, Carlo Actis Dato ou Pino Minafra et de former, avec Giuseppe Guarrella, la rythmique du December Thirty Jazz Trio et du Hereo Nonetto du pianiste Giorgio Occhipinti. A son nom, il a déjà gravé l’album Flash in Four en compagnie de Carlo Actis Dato et dirigé un quartet comprenant Paul Rutherford (tb), Guido Mazzon (tp) et Michel Godard (tuba). En compagnie de son vieux compère Guarrella, d’Elio Amato au growl incisif au trombone et du jeune Gaetano Cristofaro, qui passe avec un égal bonheur de la clarinette au ténor ou au soprano, Branciamore nous propose un jazz d’une vitalité expansive. Au cours d’une sorte de parcours initiatique au travers de l’histoire du jazz, il fait se côtoyer atmosphère bluesy, rythmes sautillants (Hurry), ballade nostalgique (Tiptoe), sinuosité hypnotique à la Steve Lacy (Monky) et échappée vers le free (Double Phase). Le punch ravageur de ce Perfect Quartet devrait enflammer le public du prochain festival Brugge 2002 qui a pris l’heureuse initiative de l’y convier. "
Claude Loxhay in J@zz@round #32 (Summer 2002)

“Drummer Francesco Branciamore speelt in het Giorgio Occhipinti Hereo Nonetto plus Cellos Sequences (Jazz’halo TS012) (het Nonetto op de Jazz’halo Music Days 1999, de Cellos en The December Thirty Jazz Trio op de Music Days 2001). In dit Perfect Quartet (Brugge 2002) heeft Branciamore als kompanen Giuseppe Guarrella (b), Gaetano Cristofaro (cl, ts, ss) en Elio Amato (tb). “Tiptoe”, één van de zeven Branciamore-composities, is misschien een goede starter met lyrische lijnen gedragen door de bassist. Hier hangt geregeld een Charlie Haden (mini) Liberation Music Orchestra sfeer. Branciamore is een vrij traditionele en sobvere drummer, alert in zijn begeleiding. Een “Magic Moment” heeft hij in het gelijknamige stuk, wanneer hij na de trombonesolo de sticks eerst laat rusten en dan de fijnzinnig opgebouwde klarinetpartij met brushes opvangt. In “Dryshot” kleurt hij met paukenstokken het totaalbeeld. Minder boeiend vind ik hem als solist (“Hurry”). Interessante blazers.”
Sim Simons in Jazzmozaïek (B) ***(*) – September 2002

“Francesco Branciamore und sein Quartett warten mit etwas auf, das im Jazz - hier im weitesten Sinne 'Modern Jazz' - leider gar nicht mehr als selbstverständlich angesehen werden kann: Frische. "Perfect Quartet" klingt einfach rundweg lebendig, ideenreich. So sollte es eigentlich immer sein, meint man - ist es aber nicht: daher sei an dieser Stelle auch ein definitives Lob erteilt!
Und frisch wechseln die Musiker innerhalb einer Komposition Tempo und Klangbild - stets gespickt mit pfiffigen Einfällen. Mal präsentiert sich die Band im Kino-Breitwandformat, mal mit einer dichten Soundtrackatmosphäre, die gut zu einem Fernsehkrimi passen würde. Gegensätzlich: Da zeigt sich beispielweise "Magic Moment" mit glattem Grundbeat, hübschem Klarinettensolo und beschwingtem crashigen Schluß dann wird mit "Hurry" ein supernervös arrangiertes Actionstück eingeschoben...
Die Band um Komponist und Schlagzeuger Francesco Branciamore, mit Gaetano Cristofaro (sax, cl), Elio Amato (tb, flhn) und Giuseppe Guarrella (b) darf sich ruhig als "Perfect Quartet" bezeichnen. Bei dem Humor, den die gesamte Produktion - bei wirklich guter Musik! - ausstrahlt, schmunzelt der Hörer gerne mit.”
Carina Prange on jazzdimensions.com (Germany), 05/11/2002

"Tot slot van deze eerste rubriek na het zomerreces nog een tip voor fijnproevers : de nieuwe van Francesco Branciamore. De Italiaanse componist en drummer is zowel met zijn kwartet als met het G. Occhipinti Hereo Nonetto een huisvriend van Jazz’halo en daar mag het label best trots op zijn. Zowel Branciamore als rietblazer Gaetano Cristofaro, bugelspeler Elio Amato en bassist Giuseppe Guarrella hebben een klassieke achtergrond maar die bagage lieten ze voor dit project achter in de vestiaire van de opnamestudio. In tegenstelling tot vorige projecten geen Stravinsky en Schönberg hier, maar heel beeldrijke, sfeervolle composities die flirten met de grenzen van de jazz. Branciamores verleden in theater- en filmmuziek heeft duidelijk zijn sporen nagelaten. Dryshot teert op een spookachtig sfeertje, waarin een frivole klarinet het lot komt tarten – denk aan Tom Waits die op café gaat met de Latin Playboys in een film van Robert Rodriguez. Hurry neigt dan weer naar een rockgroove, met Cristofaro in een glansrol. U zoekt jazz die vooruit durft kijken, zonder de elektronische toer op te gaan? Perfect Quartet zal u niet ontgoochelen.”
Bart Cornand in Focus Knack (B), 21/08/2002

“Nous avons parlé récemment du batteur Francesco Branciamore qui récidive cette fois sur le label belge Jazz’halo de notre confrère Jos Demol, avec un titre assez provocateur pour ce quartet parfait qui réunit Gaetano Cristofaro aux saxes et à la clarinette, Elio Amato au trombone et au bugle (association rare) et son « vieux » complice le contrebassiste Giuseppe Guarrella.
Ce disque décline en neuf pièces une musique post-cool où les deux souffleurs se paragent les thèmes et les interventions, propulsés par une rythmique qui travaille énormément le son, que ce soit les cymbales et marteaux du batteur ou les notes en pizzicato du contrabassiste. Ce dernier tisse des trames mélodiques sur lesquelles le sax soprano ou le bugle courent et se promènent avec aisance et vivacité. Puis, lorsque l’archet prend la parole, les rôles s’inversent. On pense à Lacy, à Rudd, à Monk, le blues est aussi présent, mais cette formation apparaît comme unique, un modèle dans son genre, grâce principalement à la puissance des compositions (toutes de Branciamore) et à une interaction dans l’interprétation qui ne laisse rien au hasard, prouvant une fois de plus la créativité sicilienne."
Philippe Renaud in Impro Jazz 90 (F), nov./déc. 2002

“Whether by accident or design, when given the chance, drummers make good bandleaders. An understanding of a group's innate rhythmic properties apparently aids them in coupling together different parts into a unified whole. This perception goes even deeper when, as on this fine CD, the percussionist writes all the material. With the shape of the compositions set, the pieces fall into place.
Furthermore, even though the seven compositions here are cast in a standard horns and rhythm grouping, veteran Italian drummer Francesco Branciamore has made sure that his tunes are carefully voiced and arranged, with the tracks a lot more than a round robin of solos. While each member of his so-called "perfect quartet" gets enough space to assert himself, no
one wears out his welcome.
Of course, Branciamore has had experience in intelligent formations himself. He's someone who more than a decade as part of the December Thirty Jazz Trio, with bassist Giuseppe Guarrella, also featured on this CD, and pianist Giorgio Occhipinti, whose large scale Hereo Nonetto includes Branciamore and Guarrella. On his own the drummer has played with international musicians like the American Lee Konitz and Britain's Evan Parker and led a band that includes French tubaist Michel Godard and British trombonist Paul Rutherford.
That mixture of brass and reed tones is highlighted here as well. On the descriptively titled "Hurry," for instance Elio Amato's speedy, staccato trombone notes trade fours with Gaetano Cristofaro's expressive alto saxophone, over an underpinning of rim shots and walking bass. Mostly a jazzy finger-snapper, the tune begins to suggest Italian banda music as the melody accelerates before the end.
Multi-instrumentalists, Amato and Cristofaro extend the quartet sound further switching among their instruments. The reedman, for example, who plays classical music as well as jazz, unveils a liquid Benny Goodman-style clarinet on "Dryshot." Sticking to the coloratura range, he's a study in contrast to the trombonist's modern tailgate styling on the same track.
Amato, whose experience encompasses work with the orchestra dell'Opera di Roma and the Washington Symphony, often turns to his mellow flugelhorn for proper instrumental blend, yet is almost strictly a 'bone man when it comes to soloing. Even muted and on a rickety-tick melody like "Cristoff," though, his well-modulated tone is implicitly modern. Modern too is Branciamore's propulsive collection of military-style paradiddles, brush strokes and rim shots. He manages to propel the tune as easily as Baby Dodds would a two-beat classic, though no Trad warhorse ever had anything like the authoritative arco section that Guarrella exhibits here. Using his snare like a kettledrum -- or maybe there was a kettledrum in the studio -- Branciamore employs this distinctive beat to create themes on "Monky" and its companion "Magic Moment," which when in full flight, could have been created by an Italian version of the Jazz Messengers. Cristofaro, this time on soprano saxophone, utilizes its aviary properties to come front-and-centre on the first tune, but when it comes to vamp the themes back and forth with Amato's trombone, pulls out the larger sax. Strategy on both tunes is for the reedist to repeat the particular riffs over and over, while the trombonist uses his hand or a metal bucket mute to dig out gritty, half-valve tones. Finally here, as with other quick stop-and-start lines, Branciamore uses his roughest attack to propel everyone back to the clearly stated theme.
Neither neo-cons nor outright sonic experimenters, these four men instead play outstanding, rhythmically challenging music that is digested as smoothly as high quality Italian wine. When all the sounds adjoin as clearly as in the successful reconstruction of a Roman artefact, they become, without question, a perfect quartet. "
Ken Waxman in JazzWeekly.com, Nov. 2002

“El jazz en Italia ofrece constantemente nuevos argumentos para situarlo entre lo más destacado del panorama europeo. Para corroborar esta idea llega un nuevo disco del baterista Francesco Branciamore, quien en esta ocasió se presenta en formato cuarteto y con siete composiciones propias. Y son precisamente la escritura y unos arreglos cuidados dos factores que destacan dentro de una música de carácter eminentemente descriptivo, si bien aqui nada suena encorsetado; el álbum, jalonado por certeros accesos de abstración, discurre fluido gracias a un consistente amazón ritmico construido por Branciamore y Giuseppe Guarrella (contrabajo) que sustenta las afinadas intervenciones de los instrumentos de viento. A lo largo del álbum apenas hay momentos de paroxismo y cuando llegan son comedidos (podriamos citar en este sentido la parte de Cristoff en la que el contrabajista recurre al arco). La música respira, y es precisamente en los cortes más reflexivos donde se encuentran sus mayores aciertos; en este apartado habria queencuadrar Dryshot y, sobre todo, la excelente Tiptoe. Por el contrario, en los tempos más rápidos (Hurry como ejemplo) se puede apreciar cierto atropello y reiteración. Sin embargo, en la mayoria de los temas el acopio de recursos se adecua a las necesidades de lo expresado, todo dentro de un contexto de avant-garde pausada con matriz bop y matizada por una evidente querencia por el clasicismo europeo.”
Pablo G. Manchón in “Cuadernos de Jazz” (SP), Nov./Dec. 2002 ****

“Potrebbe suonare un po' troppo ambizioso il definire un quartetto "il quartetto perfetto", ma bisogna anche tenere conto che il concetto di perfezione è relativo al risultato da raggiungere e non si può quindi negare che per il batterista siciliano Francesco Branciamore questa sia una tappa davvero significativa, all'interno di una carriera caparbiamente condotta al di fuori degli schemi che talvolta si materializzano nel jazz italiano.
Dopo tante avventure a fianco di improvvisatori puri della scena italiana e europea, culminati nella Improvisation of the Four Seasons che lo ha visto dialogare liberamente con Guido Mazzon, Michel Godard e Paul Rutherford, Branciamore convoglia qui tutte le esperienze all'interno di una situazione apparentemente più tradizionale e strutturata, sette brani di sua composizione, affiancato da bravi musicisti italiani.
Sono con lui infatti il poco conosciuto sassofonista Gaetano Cristofaro e due musicisti siciliani di grande esperienza e valore come Elio Amato [per lui la non abituale accoppiata trombone e flicorno] e Giuseppe Guarrella, che con Branciamore aveva già condiviso le sorti ritmiche all'interno del December Thirty Jazz Trio con Giorgio Occhipinti.
All'interno di strutture semplici e efficaci, i quattro suonano con una particolare rilassatezza, si direbbe adoperando l'abituale surplus di attenzione e ascolto reciproco che è tipico dell'improvvisazione più radicale per fare risaltare maggiormente i particolari delle composizioni, sia nelle parti d'insieme che durante i momenti solistici.
L'affiatamento si sente, dal funky scheletrico di "Hurry" alla ruvida malinconia di "Tiptoe", senza dimenticare "Monky", brano in cui l'evidente riferimento del titolo è solo un aroma dentro all'angoloso svolgersi della danza degli strumenti. L'apporto dei solisti è sempre calibrato e funzionale e anche il drumming del leader - solitamente propenso a inoltrarsi su terreni più liberi - trova qui una felice sintesi ritmica che gli consente di non abbandonare la fantasia anche all'interno di contesti più battuti.
Non sarà forse "il" quartetto perfetto, ma perfetto per l'occasione lo è di sicuro. "
Enrico Bettinello on AllAboutJazz.com * * * _

"Au regard d’un certain nombre de productions récentes, européennes souvent mais aussi américaines, on est en droit de se demander si le quartette de référence n’est pas devenu le quartette sans piano. Tel ce quartette « ornette-colemanien », si l’on peut dire, avec trompette-trombone, saxophone-clarinette, contrebasse et batterie, représenté ici respectivement par Gaetano Cristofaro, Elio Amato, Giuseppe Guarrella et Franco Branciamore, le compositeur des sept pièces représentées. Ces musiciens italiens de haut niveau exercent également leurs talents dans les domaines de la musique classique, le leader étant sollicité par le monde de la danse, du théâtre et du cinéma. Peu connu en France malgré une douzaine de disques, Branciamore (comme Guarrella) joue avec le pianiste Giorgio Occhipinti et a travaillé avec Lee Konitz, Evan Parker et Barre Phillips entre autres ; il dirige également le Trade Union European Quartet que complètent Guido Mazzon et deux musiciens proches de la scène italienne, Paul Rutherford et Michel Godard. Qu’on ne s’attende pas pour autant à des débordements free. Les compositions sont écrites, arrangées et jouées avec fraffinement. Allié à la fermeté et à la rondeur de la contrebasse, le jeu léger, swinguant et très jazzy du batteur produit une pulsation tranquille, aérée mais non dénuée de puissance qui laisse de l’espace et de la respiration à des belles improvisations de trombone et de clarinette encadrées par des thèmes chantants. Presque « sage », si l’on cherche à comparer à d’autres productions transalpines aux couleurs plus vives, ce disque offre à l’écoute un réel agrément et devrait sans aucun doute emporter l’adhésion de nombreux amateurs et esthètes."
Jean Buzelin in Jazzman (F), octobre 2002

“There is an exciting brand of small-group Jazz that builds on the innovations of Gil Evans – combining contemporary rhythms, including Caribbean, funk, and rock rhythms, with the up-to-the-minute improvisation – all of it highly focused and delivered with a Bop intensity. Branciamore’s approach is less clearly defined; like so many other “avant-garde” releases, it points to the huge and in some ways ambiguous influence that Ornette Coleman has had on Jazz in general and on the European scene in particular. Perhaps indicative of shared roots in celebrated “Downtown” styles of the 1980s and 1990s, there are stylistic similarities between Branciamore’s music, and recent efforts by such NYC-based musician-composers as Dave Douglas, Ben Allison, Matt Wilson, and Michael Blake.
The seven compositions by Branciamore offer a nice range of melodic motives and tempos; taken as a whole, they flow together like movements of an extended suite. Comfortably rocking or swinging portions give way to quick-stepping “avant-garde” segments, which then cycle to feverish peaks of intensity. After opening with the clarinet workout “Dryshot”, the CD reaches its first climax with “Monky”, which evolves to a circus-type beat. A second climax is reached two songs later in “Double Phase”, which features a slowly building ostinato that breaks portentously. The boxy rhythms and dramatic pauses could get hokey, but are saved by Branciamore, in the driver’s seat, knowing when to change gears.
Amato is an excellent brass man wielding the not unheard-of ‘double’ of trombone and flugelhorn. His trombone happens to be of the marching type, having valves and resembling an oversize trumpet. (Its sound is closer to the baritone horn or bass trumpet than to true slide trombone or euphonium.) He shows vestigal influences of Bob Brookmeyer and J.J. Johnson, but is closer in style to such free-thinking current players as Steve Swell and Jeb Bishop. Cristofaro on tenor and soprano references pre- and post-Coltrane styles, while his clarinet playing shows influences of the New Orleans school and Benny Goodman, sounding a bit like Marty Ehrlich at times.
The horns’ rich timbres, plus Guarrella’s woody, Jimmy Garrison-influenced bass add up to a sound that says “Jazz” to the listener, even when the music itself occasionally falls into an adjacent category. There is more tension than release in these performances. Nevertheless, to his credit, Branciamore is ever-vigilant about not allowing the music to lapse into boredom. Still, I found this CD to be a bit of an enigma: a disc that is experimental without being especially daring. A good compositional effort by Branciamore, and all concerned deserve ample credit for their willingness to engage the more adventurous listener. Maybe not “perfect”, but there is some worthwhile music here and Amato is an exciting soloist.”
Gregory K. Robinson in Cadence (USA), January 2003

“Drummer Francesco Branciamore looms as one of those rare entities in the world of small-ensemble-based modern jazz. His conceptual approach to melding multifarious rhythms with melody transcends the norm. Augmented by a recording that might seem more conducive for a chamber ensemble, this band's modern jazz approach shines forth with a union of celebratory but undeniably jazzy choruses. The musicians explore Mediterranean themes, influenced by their Italian roots. However, the soloists perpetuate an abundance of sinewy arrangements amid the rhythm section's polyrhythmic diversions, straight-four pulses, and more. Trombonist/flugelhornist Elio Amato and saxophonist Gaetano Cristofaro frequently engage in fervent swing grooves and odd-metered time signatures. Yet, the gist of this wonderful effort resides within Branciamore's compositional frameworks, where forceful rhythmic statements pave the way for a series of captivating harmonic structures, while the group's cohesiveness and loose gait serve as the paradigm for invention here. Hence, the musicians' clarity of ideas and near-flawless execution of the material elicit an overall mark of distinction. A superb effort indeed.”
Glenn Astarita in AllMusicGuide.com, 02/2003 **** _

“Drummer/composer/leader Francesco Branciamore’s quartet colleagues Elio Amato (trombne, flugelhorn), Gaetano Cristofaro (saxes, clarinet) and Giuseppe Guarrella (bass) all claim classical training and considerable orchestra experience in addition to jazz. Branciamore has played for dance, theatre and the cinema. You can make too much of the influence of such credentials, especially in European ensembles, but this group has the intellegence, flexibility and chops to make that “Perfect Quartet” billing less aggressive than it seems. The trombone/clarinet pairing is especially good, finding punch and nobility in the darker colors. The deep-sea bass and rolling drums behind the opening “Dryshot” – great title – emphasize that, but restless imagination spurs the drummer’s writing through a range of moods – bawdy and prowling in “Riptoe”, almost comical in the contrast of piping clarinet and swaggering trombone in “Cristoff”. Befitting a program that hasn’t much time for the theme-and-solo tradition of hard bop writing, Branciamore is trenchant throughout.”
Randal McIlroy in Coda (Canada), March/April 2003

"Avec cet opus paru sur le label Jazz Halo, Francesco Branciamore nous convie à son "Perfect Quartet". Parfait, peut-être par la musique qui dépasse les individualités pour parvenir à un chant uni et commun. Les particularismes fusionnent, les échanges deviennent intenses et profonds. Pour ce quartet, le batteur et compositeur s'est entouré de Gaetano Cristofaro (saxophones et clarinette), d'Elio Amato (trombone) et de Giuseppe Guarella (contrebasse). Les musiciens ont en partage ce goût pour les musiques travaillées, pour l'expression développée sous toutes ses formes et une exigence envers eux-mêmes qui les délivrent des stéréotypes et des discours préétablis.
Les compositions de Francesco Branciamore, réalisées spécifiquement pour le quartet, sont empreintes de lyrisme et fourmillent d'ingéniosité. Elles goûtent aux différents aspects de la musique jazz avec justesse. L'album nous plonge dans un voyage au cour du jazz et s'esquisse comme une réflexion et une pierre apportée à l'édifice de cette musique en constante découverte, évolution et renouvellement.”
Sabine Moig in Jazzosphère (F)

“Indubbiamente il panorama jazzistico si è arricchito considerevolmente, non soltanto quanto al numero dei gruppi presenti sulla scena, ma anche e soprattutto in termini di idee qualitativamente significative, da quando batteristi e contrabbassisti hanno sviluppato progetti propri: la loro prospettiva musicale, troppo a lungo ritenuta di poco o nullo rilievo e relegata ad un ruolo di spalla in esclusivo appoggio a strumenti “principi” quali fiati, ance o pianoforte, ha apportato una infusione di brillanti intuizioni e a volte perfino di capovolgimenti d'approccio. È proprio questo il caso del Perfect Quartet di Francesco Branciamore, batterista siracusano capace di una consequenzialità e coerenza improvvisativa fuori dal comune. E la coralità presente nel brano di apertura, Dryshot, mostra come sia questa una concezione pienamente condivisa da tutti i componenti del gruppo, Gaetano Cristofaro alle ance, Elio Amato al flicorno ed al trombone (timbrica che caratterizza non poco il combo) e Giuseppe Guarrella al contrabbasso. Ritmi e modulazioni mediterranee nell'unisono fra clarinetto e trombone per Cristoff, mentre notevoli sono gli obbligati che in Hurry tengono le varie voci strumentali attaccate alla pagina scritta — Cristofaro adesso al sax — con efficace risultato complessivo. Di grande pregio il lavoro contrappuntistico svolto con precisione scansiva e di intonazione da Guarrella, quasi ovunque ma in particolare qui dove i cambi mensurali di scenario ne risaltano l'ampia dotazione di figurazioni ritmiche. Più trascinato e scuro Tiptoe, in cui non mancano di distinguersi il fraseggio ed i timbri del flicorno e del tenore, nonché la divagazione in assoluta solitudine del contrabbasso. Anche Monky si caratterizza per la varietà di tempi dispari e composti — sette/quarti, cinque/quarti — che sembrano evocare l'andamento sbilenco e le movenze improvvise del primate. Elegante il clarinetto di Crisofaro in Magic Moment, che dichiara una versatilità multistrumentistica di grande incisività. A chiudere il cd un brano nelle cui repentine scariche adrenaliniche, alternate a fluidi walking sui quali i solisti cesellano le proprie fantasiose estemporaneità, si individua più marcata l'ispirazione alla lezione “ornettecolemaniana” del quartetto e del suo titolare. Un disco molto ben riuscito, equilibrato anche nella distribuzione degli spazi, senza alcun sopravvento — come spesso avviene per i batteristi — da parte del leader, che ci si augura possa presto avere un seguito.”
Antonio Terzo in Jazz Colo(u)rs, luglio ’07

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