LINER NOTES by Steve Day
Sergio Armaroli is an Italian vibraphonist who plays both conventional and free jazz, but primarily the latter. In this new release, he is truly out on a limb in the latter style, simply trying to wring as much sheer sound as he can out of his instrument.
The performances on this album have a strong kinship to one of tenor saxist Ivo Perelman’s latest CDs, Tuning Forks, on which vibraphonist Matt Moran “leads” the saxist into timbral exchanges. The difference, of course, is that here Armaroli is working alone.
Within the 43 minutes and 30 seconds of music here, Armaroli explores the full timbral gamut of his instrument, opening with soft triplet figures played by both hands—or, rather, single played in the bass against triplets in the treble. Slowly but surely, he explores varying spatial relationships between notes while maintaining a generally low level of volume, although there are moments when he emphasizes certain repeated notes in the treble by playing with a harder attack on the metal plates of his instrument. One of the things I liked most about this remarkable recording was the way in which Armaroli maintains a pure legato sound on a percussion instrument, although, of course, the vibrato setting aids him considerably in this. (George Shearing, in his early-1950s group, was the pioneer in having the vibist turn the vibrato off when playing, which is how he created such an intimate if dry sound.)
The result of this approach is an almost continuous swirl of sound that varies itself incrementally, creating an hypnotic effect on the listener. Yes, it bears a strong resemblance to an extended warm-up session; the music never congeals into any recognizable pattern; yet the way in which Armaroli is able to maintain a steady rhythm that never wavers is in itself rather extraordinary. The music never congeals into any recognizable pattern; yet the way in which Armaroli is able to maintain a steady rhythm that never wavers is in itself rather extraordinary. Although I reviewed this CD by playing it through speakers, I recommend listening through headphones, which will give you a surround-sound effect that is quite extraordinary. Little by little, step by step, Armaroli varies the inner feeling of meter despite maintaining a steady pace, and this, too feeds into the overall impact.
Indeed, if you play it softly enough and just let the music wash over you, I think you will find this an excellent CD to accompany meditation. It is very much a one-off—I for one can’t imagine Armaroli recording a sequel, since he only made it to 43 minutes on this CD—but a fascinating one nonetheless.
—© 2023 Lynn René Bayley