Celebrating a label's 35th anniversary at a venue as iconic as The Stone in New York City is already quite revealing of the nature of the music to be heard, i.e. definitely unusual and daring, definitely with no piano bar and no noisy cash register... But with the present celebration, there was an added element of surprise, as Andrea Centazzo — founder of the creative ICTUS label and curator of the 12 nights Festival (April 1-14, 2012) -- brought for the first time ever to the heart of NYC some of the best Italian improvisers of the moment, cleverly mixing them in exciting combinations with several famous American soloists. As stated in the program announcement, it was indeed an "Italian Invasion & Other Stories" that offered several moving Tributes (notably to Masters Steve Lacy and Derek Bailey, and to the brilliant but regretfully lesser known composer Colin McPhee). All in all, a total of 24 concerts that filled Manhattan Lower East Side’s early spring nights with strong colorful sonic energies. Two concerts practically every night for two weeks, an impressive Festival. It was a lot of music. It was a lot of excitement, a lot of musical instruments (brass, strings, percussions, gamelans, electronics and more!), a lot of fun, and a lot of music fans too -- some evenings one could see them patiently lining up around the corner along 2nd Street, waiting to get in -- but it was also a lot of careful technical work recording properly so many different groups, ranging from a simple duo to a really BIG and powerful orchestra... Not an easy task. But the music has fortunately been captured, and some of its magic is right here in this first volume of ICTUS NIGHTS @ THE STONE. For sure, the sensitive listener will feel the intimate communion of the souls that radiates throughout the opening duo piece (Crispell/ Centazzo), will let himself be carried away in the quiet and ethereal journey of the six improvising guitarists in their deeply respectful tribute to Derek Bailey (Kaiser/ Sharp/ Capelli/ Nilsson/ Williams/ Cochrane, quite a line-up!), and be touched by the gutsy incantatory flight of the trio “At War’ (Kaiser/ Centazzo/ Dato). He will no doubt be intrigued by the richly complex 5 soprano saxophones collective tribute to Steve Lacy (Ottaviano/ Raffo Dewar/ McPhee/ Giardullo/ Laheurte), be lifted up into the abstract aerial spheres of an unusual piano/trumpet/percussions trio (Mazzon/ Petrin/ Centazzo) and be sensitive to the intense spiritual oriental overtones and thundering beat of Mystery (Ottaviano/ Capelli/ Centazzo), while Soul in the Mist will very likely make him float deliciously in a peaceful Alice in Wonderland kind of “trip” (Robinson/ Massari/ Centazzo/ Ellis). Then the adventurous, occasionally exuberant, yet profoundly introspective Latecomers (Schiaffini/ Swell/ Coleman/ Centazzo) will make him ready for the explorations of moody Rituals he did not expect to become part of (Williams/ Smith/ Centazzo). Lastly, he will joyfully surrender to the final piece, Strategy Games, delicately complex and gracious, truly majestic at times (Italian Invasion Orchestra).
The ICTUS NIGHTS @ The Stone may be over, but -- for those having noticed and absorbed the strong friendly creative vibes shared by all actors and spectators alike during those two weeks in April 2012 -- the music lives on through the vivid sounds and images that have been imprinted in their mind.
GMPL - New York - April 19th, 2013