Tag Archives: Fabrizio Spera

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

WEIGHTLESS – A Brush With Dignity (CF 154)
Weightless is a quartet shaped by pianist Alberto Braida, bassist John Edwards, saxophonist John Butcher and drummer Fabrizio Spera. These tracks were recorded during a German tour in 2008; they show the host of dynamics and the plausibility of the chromatic choices that should ideally constitute the starting point of nowadays’ jazz, but that unfortunately have become a rare commodity instead. The initial “Apre” is characterized by restrained vitality permeated by a sincere love for dissonance, the artists’ combined sensibilities cementing the grounds of a sagacious interplay. A welcome scent of purified air and the sharp management of a concentrated palette are brought forth by the foursome in the longest and finest improvisation “Centri”, a piece that illustrates the terms “balance” and “composure” much better than a mere description. Braida’s tasteful rarefactions and Spera’s chirurgical picking of spots to drive an irregular pulse get counterbalanced by milieus defined by Butcher’s isolated phrases – the man is able to find poetry even in the harshness of splintered harmonics – and the constant, if unobtrusive support to the whole apparatus given by Edwards’ compliant propulsion, a sign of intelligence stamped in the place where average bassists would probably insert bop-ish zigzags accompanied by the grunt of their own voice pretending to repeat the lines they’re playing, which is a horrible commonplace – one of the many that this group avoids like plague. In “Vista”, the minuteness of the instrumental gesture is fundamental for the development of an all-embracing concoction of sketched circuits and barely discernible signs. The conclusive “Termo” recovers some of the no-nonsense harmonic conflicts that had been discarded in the central sections, possibly closing a circle. Again, it’s difficult to pin the details down barring pathetic frame-by-frame depictions. Let’s just say that the connection between an attentive audience and four musicians whose aerials are among the most receptive around is easily established, and that the group’s name is exactly the reverse of how this terrific album sounds.
http://touchingextremes.wordpress.com/2011/05/

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JazzWord review by Ken Waxman

Weightless – A Brush with Dignity (CF 154)
Atonal, audacious and admirable, Weightless is an irregularly constituted quartet made up of four top-flight improvisers: two from England and two from Italy. Recorded during two German gigs, the polyphonic expression is the result of the almost familial musical relationship between bassist John Edwards and saxophonist John Butcher on one side and pianist Alberto Braida and drummer Fabrizio Spera on the other.

Over the past few decades Butcher has sonically matched wits with everyone from British guitarist Derek Bailey to French clarinetist Xavier Charles. Edwards, one of London improv’s go-to bassists, has played with personalities as different as British saxophonist Evan Parker and American drummer Sunny Murray, while Lodi-based Braida and Spera have separately or alone linked up with stylists such as Canadian bassist Lisle Ellis and German synth master Thomas Lehn.

Although there are intimations of electricity here, no instrument is plugged into a socket. Instead the pulsating wave forms come from Braida’s internal piano string- exciting, Butcher’s multiphonics and overblowing plus the panoply of tones and textures the other two extract from their instruments. Furthermore, while perfectly balanced throughout, this group interaction doesn’t mean that any of the players sacrifice their individuality.

Case in point: “Termo”. Inaugurated full force with sul tasto bass string bowing, snapping and rebounding drum pressure, reversible cascading piano chords and the saxophone emitting fierce bird-like cawing, antithetical roles evolve by the mid-section. While Butcher’s frenetic wide vibrato, spetrofluctuation and flutter tonguing work into an interlude of circular breathing that is both harsh and airy, Braida’s confined comping and near-meditative chording suggest unruffled continuity. Meanwhile Spera’s cymbal resonation and Edwards’ powerful thumps are tonal enough to keep the time measured. Nonetheless, tonality is also in the ear of the listener. Throughout, it’s not that others don’t accelerate to tension-laden, stop-time interpolations, or that the saxophonist limits his solos to smeared chirps, growls and tongue stops or echoes partial tone extensions.

“Centri” for instance, which unrolls for more than 29½ minutes, demonstrates all sorts of improvisational strategies. The exposition works its way from bass string pings and drumstick squeaks on cymbal tops to a chromatic narrative that mixes aviary pitch variations from the reedist, snare ruffs, near legato bass string bowing and a dramatic two-handed, piano key-pumping that is as much prepared as poramento. Diffuse, wide-bore reed patterns exhibited with the caution tourists use to cross Italian streets, precede an extended pause where Jekyll-and-Hyde-like Butcher appears to split into two saxophonists: one playing straight-ahead and the other sounding buzzing split tones.

As the two sides of his reed personality meld, the tune almost become a rondo, with Braida producing dynamic harmonies, Spera press rolls and pops, and Edwards picking and slapping his strings. By the time the saxophonist has progressed to guttural intensity and overblowing, the pianist’s staccato chording sounds as if he’s playing a pressurized version of “Chop Sticks”. A sudden cymbal smack unites this melody to the invention’s final section following a further protracted pause. As the saxophonist rolls unexpected phrases in his mouth as if savoring a sweet treat, the pianist strums and counters with dynamic note clusters. Hesitant nerve beats and ruffs from Spera underline Butcher’s irregular flattement and vibrated ghost notes as the others’ contribution to the final variant, collapses the theme into an overriding segmented buzz.

Inventive and perfectly balanced whether legato or staccato, with solo tones or with layered timbres, the communication among the four isn’t weightless, but weighty is a good sense. Hopefully an encore CD is in the offing.
http://www.jazzword.com/review/127195

Ni Kantu review by Clifford Allen

WEIGHTLESS – A Brush with Dignity (CF 154)
Weightless is the combo of Italian pianist Alberto Braida and drummer Fabrizio Spera and the English saxophone-bass team of John Butcher and John Edwards. Both pairs of musicians are restless international collaborators, though Spera and Braida might be new names to some (their groups have included saxophonist Jack Wright, bassist Lisle Ellis, and reedman Hans Koch). In a way, it’s refreshing that A Brush with Dignity sounds like one would hope, minus the air of iciness that can be attached to Butcher. The addition of a harmonic instrument lends a particular cast, not necessarily “bringing the boys home,” but responding with bluesy Paul Bley-like turnarounds and fleshy rhythmic clang as Edwards and Spera flail and thrum around Butcher’s sputtering stiletto. The centerpiece is the nearly thirty-minute “Centri” (not eight, as the sleeve says), beginning with long breathy tones and metallic jitter commingling with throaty voices from Edwards’ hull. It would be easy for such sparseness to become rarified, but that doesn’t happen – chordal outlines and Spera’s terse, high-pitched bowing are mated to the Brits’ gritty agitation. Unaccompanied, Braida has a way of making massive sonic areas halting and squirrely, though without much speed (again perhaps the influence of Bley’s later work). Furious pizzicato strum and Spera’s angled, brushed ricochets fill out a suspended and turbulent trio. Cottony circular breathing, flutter tonguing, bowed cymbals and muted piano clunks echo the moments of kindling in the Schlippenbach quartet, soon dropping away into thwacking tenor and bass. Without going into a play-by-play, it is here that the group clearly subverts its name without looking back.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Weightless – A Brush with Dignity (CF  154)
Probabilmente uno dei segreti dell’alchimia di questo quartetto – che ha scelto una denominazione “senza peso,” ma che più correttamente potrebbe riferirsi a una serie di pesi espressivi a intensità variabile – è quella di lavorare per linee orizzontali, per piani mobili di improvvisazione. Ne fanno parte due dei più interessanti esponenti della scena inglese, il sassofonista John Butcher e il contrabbassista John Edwards, insieme a due musicisti italiani che negli anni si sono costruiti una meritata reputazione di sensibili esploratori del suono, il batterista Fabrizio Spera e il pianista Alberto Braida.
Rigorosamente registrati dal vivo, laddove “avviene” la loro musica [nel caso specifico due concerti in Germania dell’ottobre 2008], i Weitghtless consegnano a questo A Brush with Dignity quattro splendide improvvisazioni, ricche di melodie inaspettate, di soluzioni timbriche fantasiose, di livelli ritmici intercambiabili.

Si trovano alla perfezione i quattro, in bilico tra una abrasività tipicamente mitteleuropea e una capacità di fare “cantare” la musica che sarebbe riduttivo attribuire alla componente mediterranea del sodalizio, ma che nasce invece da una più intensa capacità di sintetizzare narrativamente [per quanto con la frammentazione tipica di queste scelte formali] quei piani di cui parlavamo qualche riga fa. Non sempre i concerti di improvvisazione, anche i più riusciti, sono godibili anche su disco.

Questa è una delle felici eccezioni.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=4725

Free Jazz review by Stef

CF 154Weightless – A Brush With Dignity (CF 154)
****½
British saxophonist John Butcher and bassist John Edwards are two of the most prominent voices in European free improvisation. They are joined by two Italian improvisers, Alberto Braida on piano and Fabrizio Spera on drums. As with many free improvisation, forget about roles in the band: all musicians contribute in equal parts, adding sounds, interacting and creating high levels of immediate intensity. The band’s name is well chosen, as the music is somewhere suspended in the air, very sparse and devoid of a need to produce sound, free of earthly concerns, although it flows quite organically, naturally, without structure or foundation. The musicians play their limited notes and sounds with reserve, paying full attention to each of them, infusing every one of them with power. Braida can play a few keys, just enough to add to the overall atmosphere, without feeling the need to make chords, or phrases. It’s the sound that counts, and in that he finds a real soulmate in John Butcher, whose careful powerful minimalism is impressive as usual, Edwards’ versatility and creativity, both on arco and plucked is astonishing, and listen how Spera builds depth, contrast and color. Some moments are harsh, others are of an incredible subtlety and nuance. The end result is one of ethereal beauty, not easy to get into, but worth every note. http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

CF 154Weightless – A Brush With Dignity (CF 154)
El cuarteto Weightless es una formación de primer nivel dentro de la libre improvisación europea. En ella participan el saxofonista John Butcher, el contrabajista John Edwards, el pianista Alberto Braida y el batería Fabrizio Spera. A Brush With Dignity está grabado en directo en Berlin en octubre de 2008 y su duración, que apenas supera los 40 minutos, resulta perfecta para una propuesta en la que la improvisación es el factor fundamental. El entendimiento entre los músicos, que van desarrollando diferentes ideas, así como el placer de escuchar el trabajo de John Butcher al saxo explorando distintas maneras de obtener sonidos con sus instrumentos, son unos motivos más que suficientes para sumergirse en la música de A Brush With Dignity.
http://www.tomajazz.com/bun/2009/11/weightless-brush-with-dignity.html

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 154Weightless – A Brush with Dignity (CF 154)
Weightless, A Free Quartet in a New Recording
Of all the instruments to play, the piano is one that poses particular challenges. You sit down to it and all the notes are available to you simultaneously. You only have ten fingers, plus your arms for clusters if you play like Don Pullen (or Henry Cowell), so choice becomes critical. The moment you push down the keys the piano immediately gives out with a sound, one group of sounds really, that has to do with that particular piano and its characteristics. To get “your” sound takes many years, if you ever get there.

A child when first fooling around with the instrument can immediately and un-selfconsciously pull off a bad Cecil Taylor imitation. Tinkle-slam-chop-blur. Again to get any good at going at it in this way takes considerable time and practice. To go beyond that second level, to be a truly individual stylist in this mode is even more difficult.

This brings me to the CD at hand today. It’s by a group called Weightless and the CD is entitled A Brush with Dignity (Clean Feed). Weightless consists of Alberto Braida on piano, John Butcher on tenor and soprano, John Edwards on double bass and Fabrizio Spera on drums.

Weightless engages in carefully executed sorts of free improvisations that owe something to new concert music though there is a strong foundation in the “jazz” orientation, whatever that means anymore.

Braida’s playing reminds us of what it takes to get a personal sound and a kind of free playing that goes leagues beyond the “kid-slamming-at-the-piano” fundamentals. He picks his way painstakingly through the possibilities. . . a cluster here, a phrase there, an overall attempt not to be automatic or banal and an avoidance of any overt key center. He has tangible success in the “what” category; the “how” category (the personal sound) is not fully present, at least on this recording according to my own take on it. That is not a problem to the music in any sense. Because also to consider is that Braida succeeds in interjecting himself into a set of collective ensemble improvisations, and in that context he is not supposed to stand out but to meld together with the others.

The four players as an organic whole succeed in creating group structures that are not uninteresting. Butcher’s tenor steps out alone on occasion, not to blaze with incandescent speakings of the tongues, but with more considered note making. That is true of the group at large as well.

I would not go so far as to say that Weightless has achieved total individuality as yet. That may come. What they have done here is created an hour of interesting free music. This is not a high-energy, high density slam-dunk sort of freakout. It’s a bit more thoughtful. Those who like the quieter areas of free music and sensitive group interplay will find it pleasing. http://gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com/