Wells

Gianni Mimmo & Harri Sjöström

CD
May 2023

Heart-felt And RigoRous Improvisation – Sometimes
Jazzy”, Often Striving To Rearrange Our Minds
Great Intonation And NNonsense IMImpression.
Music Made Once!

Evan Parker

Tracklist

01. Announcement [3:24]
02. Remoteness [5:54]
03. Posture/Gesture [3:26]
04. Pas de Deux [8:26]
05. Tear and Darn [6:20]
06. Signaling [5:05]
07. Recommendation [4:53]
08. Spark Strategy [2:47]
09. Ondina [6:05]
10. Encyclopedia at Glance [8:36]

Credits

Gianni Mimmo: soprano saxophone
Harri Sjöström: soprano & sopranino saxophones

All tracks by G. Mimmo and Harri Sjöström except 08 by H. Sjöström and 09 by G. Mimmo
Recorded at Teatro San Matteo, Piacenza, Italy on 2022, April the 9th.
[Tracks 1-3 afternoon session, tracks 4-10 evening live concert]
Sound engineering, mixing and mastering: Lorenzo Sempio – InterPlay Recording Studio, Milano, Italy
Cover photo: Harri Sjöström
Inside photos: H.Sjöström by Luciano Rossetti [©Rossetti-PHOCUS], G. Mimmo by Uli Templin 
Liner notes: Evan Parker
Graphics: Nicola Guazzaloca
Executive production: Gianni Mimmo for Amirani Records

Special thanks to Guido Lavelli for his warm friendship and logistic support.

The New York Jazz City Records
Ken Waxman

Harri Sjöström, who turns 72 this month, is a Finnish musician who has maintained an affiliation with free music over the years and remains a soprano/ sopranino saxophonist who might be more likely to play with other european improvisers than Finnish ones. Wells and Especially For You are two fine examples of this proclivity. 
On Wells, he is paired with Italian soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, who has a similar knack for finding sympathetic partners. Purely acoustic, their individual timbres are easily identifiable, particularly when Sjöstrom sticks to his skyscraper- pitch sopranino. The Finnish player’s peeping tones decorate, while the Italian’s soprano advances colorful themes. Sometimes the two break up the contrapuntal challenges by pivoting to sudden reed blats or further stretching expositions, as on the double counterpoint of “Signaling”, which is broken with one saxophonist creating a continuum of percussive tongue slaps while the other squeaks and squeals. 
Although pointed tones are the duo’s preferred playing strategy, that doesn’t preclude the infusion of warmer tones. The concluding “encyclopedia at Glance” melds reed intersection with smooth timbral slides. Its final affiliation is enlivened with tough bites from one and shrill flutters from the other. even on the extended “Pas de Deux”, consistency is emphasized. Squeezed notes may be tossed from one to the other as each moves up the scale—but the conclusion is both harmonized and horizontal. Intriguingly, the duo’s sound is so entrenched that, when each gets a solo spot, reed techniques suggest that another saxophone is producing additional sound squibs. 

Sands Zine
Mario Biserni

Mimmo e Sjöström non arrivano di punto in bianco alla realizzazione di questo disco a quattro mani, dal momento che da tempo condividono l’esperienza del Sestetto Internazionale (in programma la recensione del nuovo disco) e che hanno già all’attivo una prima pubblicazione in duo. Inoltre avranno sicuramente avuto modo di incrociare i loro percorsi in qualche altra occasione per il diletto di quelli che possono presenziare ai concerti giusti.
Nell’occasione i due soffiano nei loro sax soprano (e anche sopranino per quanto concerne il finlandese) in un dialogo serrato che ci fa pensare alla sinfonia di una coppia di usignoli.
Questo è il lapidario commento di Evan Parker, in forma di acrostico, riportato nella confezione: «Heart-felt and rigorous improvisation – sometimes “jazzy”, often striving to rearrange our minds. Great intonation and no nonsense is my impression. Music made once!».
Poche parole, spese bene, scritte da un’autorità nel campo della musica improvvisata e che mi sembrano un buon punto d’inizio per scandagliare questo disco.
Una musica nella quale c’è il richiamo alla tradizione jazzistica – quella che va da Sidney Bechet a Steve Lacy, passando per Coltrane, Hemphill e Shorter, e che in egual misura è unica, irripetibile, «destinata a riordinare le nostre menti» e lasciare la nostra fantasia libera di volare.
Quello dei due è un gorghéggiare all’apparenza familiare ma in realtà ignoto, come prodotto da esseri a noi alieni di provenienza extraterrestre o lasciati in eredità da un mondo scomparso, esseri primitivi ormai estinti le cui sembianze potrebbero rassomigliare alla ramiccia ragnosa, un ibrido fra Aracne e uno Pterodattilo, fotografata da Sjöström e utilizzata per la copertina (un evidente caso di apofenia).
«Grande intonazione e nessun incongruenza» sia laddove il suono esce più greve e profondo, probabile esternazione di Mimmo seppure sia difficile da stabilire con certezza, sia laddove esce più garrulo.
Un ultimo plauso per le scelte grafiche di Nicola Guazzaloca, che dimostra di avere un’ottima mano anche distolta dalla tastiera del pianoforte.

Prossimamente: “333” di Arvo Zylo; “Tetrapylon” di Studer, Frey, Schlegel & Weber; “From Solstice To Equinox” // “Out Of Standard!! – Italia 11” di Nocturnal Emissions & Barnacles // Autori Vari; “Uragano” dei Perforto; “Terrestrial Journeys” di Gilbert Galindo; “Live at De Roze Tanker” di Oğuz Büyükberber & Tobias Klein; “An Artist’s Life Manifesto” di Fin, Caliumi, Fochesato, Battaglia, Masetto & Mampreso; “Quadrivium” di Edmun Campion; “Zanshou Glance At The Tide” di Yoko Miura & Gianni Mimmo; “Ochotona Calls” di Eva-Maria Karbacher; “The Quietest Of Whispers” di Evan Ware; “Due Mutabili” // “Cadenza del Crepuscolo” di Sestetto Internazionale // Hughes, Mimmo, Schlechta & Volqartz; “Sound In Time” di Blaž Švagan; “Live At Pariser Platz” di AoA Impro Group; “Kinesis” del Galan Trio; “Praznina / Emptiness” di Iztok Koren …

Kathodik
Alessandro Bertinetto

Sin dalle prime sequenze dell’Announcement, un incipit che, per la sua funzione strutturale, ricorda quello del coltraniano Aknowledgmenett (nel celeberrimo ‘A Love Supreme’) si palesa l’atmosfera sonora del disco: un’immersione intensa nelle profondità dell’improvvisazione. Un’improvvisazione dialogica quella dei sax dei due protagonisti, che, forti di una lunga reciproca consuetudine, conversano con una fluidità e grazia eterea, accompagnando l’ascoltatore in un’odissea sonora che sfida i confini tradizionali dell’ascolto, e aprendo le porte di un regno dove persino il silenzio parla con eloquenza.
Tra narrazione poetica e suggestione primordiale, sperimentazione tecnica e innovazione stilistica, spunti ironici, cenni onomatopeici, ed effluvi espressivi (in un momento di Tear and Darm, ad esempio il sax, credo di Mimmo – ma solo lui potrebbe confermarlo o smentirlo – fa un uso incredibilmente elegante degli armonici), Gianni Mimmo (sax soprano) e Harri Sjöström (sax soprano e sopranino) offrono una celebrazione musicale dell’essenza del suono improvvisato: pungolandosi a vicenda, sviluppando le idee proposte dal co-protagonista, approfondendo ogni dettaglio come rinvenendovi un gioiello prezioso, nelle dieci tracce del disco i due sassofonisti assaporano, e ci fanno assaporare, la gioia di un Pas de Deux che non è solo il titolo del quarto brano, ma cifra stilistica di tutto il lavoro.
Nato dai concerti realizzati al Teatro San Matteo di Piacenza (9 aprile 2022), l’album, impreziosito dalla grafica di copertina realizzata da Nicola Guazzaloca – peraltro pianista e improvvisatore, e spesso compagno d’avventure musicali di Mimmo – è espressione di quelle sorgenti di creatività di cui abbiamo sempre fortemente bisogno. Così il termine ‘Wells’ del titolo non significa solo sorgenti o pozzi, ma anche trombe, corni, fiati: a suggerire che sono proprio i sassofoni di Mimmo e Sjöström le ispirate fonti di salutare creatività.

Jazz Word
Ken Waxman

More palatable than many improvisational duos, probably because woodwind sonorities are generally complementary, reed pairings have at least a half-century history. These accomplished sessions expand the thesis by singular immersion in the contrapuntal challenges raised by annexing timbres from either high or low-pitched instruments. Each attains it goal by combining sounds from reeds of similar intonation. Wells is another meeting between veteran creative musicians, Italian soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, who has recorded often and Finnish soprano and sopranino saxophonist Harri Sjöström, who playing partners have included Cecil Taylor. Moving all the way down the scale, Vindögae features two extended tracks by Norwegian clarinetist/bass clarinetist Andreas Røysum, who usually leads his own bands and Swede Mats Gustafsson. Member of The Thing, playing slide flute, fluteophone and baritone saxophone.

Taking the high road first, Mimmo’s and Sjöström’s timbres are most easily identifiable when the later sticks to the skyscraper-pitch sopranino. Often its peeping tones are used to decorate and color themes Mimmo advances with a soaring but linear tone. At the same time the two break up the call-and-response or contrapuntal challenges by pivoting to sudden doits or curving lines that are stretched further and further. When this happens as on “Signaling” double counterpoint is then broken with one saxophonist creating a continuum with percussive tongue slaps while the other peeps and squeals. Although tone elevation is the duo’s preferred strategy that doesn’t preclude infusion of warmer tones into the program. The concluding “Encyclopedia at Glance”, for instance melds reed intersection into smooth timbral slides that continue in tandem even as one player emphasizes tough bites and split tone and the other shrill flutters. Nonetheless both lines eventually affiliate and end together. Distinct variations are constantly prominent as clarion tone widen and deepen in points, or one or another thin linear commentary scales down to gritty, grainy scoops. Intriguingly, when each gets a solo spot, variations produced by reed techniques and inner body tube echoes posit that a second horn is producing the pointillist sound squibs. This suggests each player is creating multiple sounds. . Overall, even on the extended “Pas de Deux” consistency and creativity are emphasized during the sonic dance. Twittering squeezed notes may be tossed from one to the other with maximum flutters and stops as they move up the scale. But moving to mid-range cascading tones leads to a harmonized and horizontal finish.

Gustafsson and Røysum confirm their affiliation to basement tones from the very beginning as Vindögae starts with an exaggerated chalumeau buzz soon interrupted by a thick tongue slap. Gustafsson’s baritone saxophone maintains these basso stops and swells as Røysum’s clarinet squeals detour into altissimo territory. His stretched trills are soon joined by fluteophone puffs that also bring in vocalized yelps from both. Soon it’s the clarinetist who maintains horizontal flow as high-pitched flute peeps vibrate around it setting up an elevated challenge, met until both horns subside to middle-range pitches. The climax returns the two to the head, as Røysum tongue stops and lows and Gustafsson responds with gusts of toneless air. The second improvisation is more of the same. Except this time when players aren’t producing altissimo screams at prestissimo tempos, they both evacuate renal tones. Working their way down from end blown or reed vibrated twitters, they revert to strained lower pitches, with Gustafsson’s honking and buzzing saxophone scoops almost overpowering lighter tones. Finally tongue pops, key slaps and intermittent blats from bass clarinet and baritone saxophone reach the lowest tone possible until Røysum confirms the polyphonic thrusts with frenetic upwards reed blasts. Expressing the high and low textures of free music, these duos confirm their ability to construct a fully realized sound picture using only reed, metal, wood and breath.

Avant Music News
Daniel Barbiero

Amirani Records, the label founded and run by Milanese soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, ends its eighteen-year run with three final releases. The last of the three, a recording of the Sestetto Internazionale, was reviewed here earlier; preceding it a duet for Mimmo and Finnish soprano and sopranino saxophonist Harri Sjöström, and a solo recording by Milanese cellist Walter Prati.

Mimmo and Sjöström are frequent collaborators, whether in the Sestetto Internazionale or as duet partners, and on Wells, their well-practiced chemistry shows. Throughout the album they spontaneously create themes and variations that they pass back and forth, telepathically complete each other’s phrases, and braid their lines together into knots of complex counterpoint. The two voices are clearly separated in the recording which makes each player – Mimmo, with a round, warm sound, and Sjöström, with a sharper attack and more angular approach to phrasing – easily identifiable.

Percorsi Musicali
Ettore Garzia

I duetti tra Gianni Mimmo e Harri Sjostrom inducono invece ad una logica improvvisativa contrappuntiva. Ma non è del normale contrappunto che si parla, piuttosto di contrappunto di due lavorazioni espressive che cineticamente si muovono nella mente dei due sopranisti. In Wells, CD che si configura come il loro secondo incontro in duo, si potrebbe parlare di apoteosi del contrappunto, qualcosa che ha la massima libertà di portarci nell’ascolto a percezioni contrastive anche sconfiggendo l’idea che la creazione di un contrappunto deve essere fatta di note o fraseggi dotati di una certa proporzione; invero qui si sposa un’idea di relazione che è elasticità e memoria di un risveglio solerte, come succede nella splendida Pas de Duex per esempio, dove i due sassofonisti si affacciano e si riprendono negli sviluppi dell’improvvisazione dimostrando che esiste una vena intraprendente dei registri acuti; così come si trova un equilibrio conclusivo insperato nel gettito di Signaling, dove i due musicisti raggiungono un climax attraverso un incrocio sulla tecnica (da una parte uno scarico di soprano che timbricamente prende le sonorità di una cornetta, dall’altra un graffiato che raggiunge le sembianze di un growling al sax). Dal punto di vista estetico in Wells Mimmo e Sjostrom sembrano voler inviare un messaggio implicito e ben diverso da quello che si ascoltava da loro quando una decina d’anni fa hanno stretto con vigore la loro collaborazione; non c’è più la volonta di imprimere una forza speculare e decuplicare l’espressione come succedeva nel Live at Bauchhund, oggi c’è la sensazione di un viaggio costruito con tutti i crismi del caso, “uccelli” espressivi che volano dinamici, operosi e comunicativi. Sono “scintille” di astrazione differenti dai morsi dell’espressionismo astratto, è qualcosa più vicina al surrealismo e al desiderio di “avvertire” di un dominio senza limiti, uno svuotamento alla Breton o, per me, anche l’immagine di Bird e di Pindaro uniti per fare rivelazioni sotto l’effetto di geometrie prive di linearità.
Ha avuto un’ottima intuizione Evan Parker quando dopo aver ascoltato il lavoro di Mimmo e Sjostrom si è inventato dei versi dove le iniziali delle parole usate tracciavano i nomi dei due musicisti (evidenziate in grassetto):
Heart-felt And RigoRous Improvisation – Sometimes
“Jazzy”, Often Striving To Rearrange Our Minds,
Great Intonation And No Nonsense Is My Impression.
Music Made Once!

https://diskoryxeion.blogspot.com
Phontas Troussas

The saxophonists, basically sopranos, Gianni Mimmo and Harri Sjöström, have been collaborating in the past in the palace and studio. Here, in the record store, we have met them as members of the group Sestetto Internazionale, on the album "Aural / Vertigo" [Amirani, 2017], but also on their regular, duo CD "Live at Bauchhund, Berlin 2010" [Amirani, 2011].
So they have identified all those codes of communication that should exist in order for such a group to exist on stage or in the studio, creating an aesthetic event, and indeed they do - and this is the case with "Wells" [Amirani Records, 2023], the newest collaboration between Mimmo and Sjöström, now recorded on a nice CD, with all-paper cover, recorded live at Teatro San Matteo, Piacenza, Italy (9 April 2022).
In fact, the first three tracks were recorded in an afternoon session, presumably in the "rehearsal" phase of the two musicians (we put "rehearsal" in quotes, because rehearsals in the most common sense are not understood in improv events), while the next seven were recorded in the normal way, during the evening concert.
But, whether in one or the other, what is important and important, for both instrumentalists, is the process of improvisation itself and the way, the method, through which it is completed, constituting a "work".
The two soprano saxophones (although Sjöström sometimes plays the sopranino as well) are not two 'same' instruments, since they are played by two different players. What we mean is that the playing personalities of the Italian and the Finn are not the same, and you can see this from the way the two instruments sound each time, exploiting a range of timbres that can pass from clarinet, oboe and even some types of flute sometimes, giving the manifest conversations (there is basically a habituation of the two instruments and rarely a dialogue or solo phase) the certainty of a subversive mood.
So there is a strategy here, which usually works with the logic of the spark. We mean that from somewhere a 'given', a 'trigger' pops up and from that a situation begins to unfold which you cannot prescribe.
So, music that is spontaneous and spontaneous, from Gianni Mimmo and Harri Sjöström, without obvious references, worked and processed in the moment of birth, that pays attention to the unexpected and the surprise.

Orynx Improv and Sound
Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg

Deux saxophonistes sopranos ensemble qui font plus qu’évoquer feu Steve Lacy, leur maître. Gianni Mimmo et Harri Sjöström. C'est leur deuxième album en duo (après Bauchhund, même label) et ils partagent aussi un groupe commun. On connaît la polémique au sujet des « copycats ». De la stupidité totale. D’abord, il faut savoir jouer du saxophone (sporano!) à un (très) haut niveau et ces deux artistes ont une expressivité, une sensibilité indéniables. Steve Lacy était un artiste aussi indispensable et fascinant que l’était John Coltrane. Tout comme John Coltrane ou Lester Young avant lui, Lacy avait tellement de talent et sa musique était tellement lumineuse et évidente qu’elle a entraîné des « suiveurs ». Tout comme Dave Liebman, Joe Farrell, Alan Skidmore ou Paul Dunmall ont marché dans les pas de Coltrane, nos deux amis, Gianni et Harri ont évolué dans la direction indiquée par Lacy. Certains artistes choisissent de créer un univers radicalement différent de leurs prédécesseurs, comme l’ont fait Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker, John Butcher ou Michel Doneda, d’autres suivent avec enthousiasme l’enseignement d’un grand maître afin d’acquérir une base solide pour apprendre leur instrument avec un maximum d’exigence musicale et un travail intense … Pour ensuite se surpasser et imprimer leur marque personnelle. Copieurs, on s’en fout ! Jouer ainsi ensemble avec deux sax sopranos en duo avec autant d’à-propos, ce n’est pas donné à tout le monde. Il faut vraiment être de mauvaise foi ou un peu crétin pour y trouver matière à critique (négative). Écoutez honnêtement un gros paquet d’albums bien choisis de Paul Dunmall et comparez-le ensuite à son maître Coltrane et vous pourrez mesurer … le travail intense et démesuré de ce saxophoniste de l’impossible. C’est un peu ce qui se passe dans ce duo : en combinant leurs talents et leurs sensibilités dans l'improvisation "totale", Gianni Mimmo et Harri Sjöström magnifient les facettes infinies du saxophone droit, le difficile sax soprano, auquel s’ajoutent les facéties de Sjöström au sax sopranino, un instrument tout à fait ingrat, ne fut-ce que pour en assurer sa « justesse ». Nous avons ici l’impression de nous balader dans des galeries infinies de miroirs déformants, où s’étirent, se compressent ou spiralent à l’infini toutes les combinaisons sonores, timbrales, harmoniques, mélodiques de ces deux saxophones en face à face avec une myriade de suggestions, répons, fragments mélodiques, harmonies induites ou perçues, imbrications, imprécations, caquetages, articulations fébriles ou hyper contrôlées. Qui joue quoi : Harri ou Gianni, vous seriez bien en peine de le deviner. Donc, écoutons. Une musique profondément sensible, éthérée, intime, intense un partage profond de la « matière », un sens étonnant des couleurs. Gianni représente un peu le côté un peu sérieux – organisé de Steve et Harri, son côté « canard » (The Duck !) avec un brin de Lol Coxhill. Inépuisable (Wells ?). Mais en écoutant maintenant le duo de Lacy avec Evan Parker (Chirps/FMP) et ce Wells à la suite, je n’arrive pas à me décider sincèrement lequel de ces deux albums je préfère. Evan Parker a écrit un texte en utilisant toutes les lettres de des prénoms et patronymes de Gianni Mimmo et Harri Sjöström pour exprimer son ravissement. En fait, cet album est génial !