Psychosis – Homage to Bernard Herrmann
This one comes from across the pond and yes, saxophonist Carla Marciano and her quartet hail from Italy. This is this writer’s first exposure to her remarkable tone and passionate approach to her instruments – alto and sopranino saxes. It’s no surprise that she is considered by critics as one of Europe’s best talents. We should just pause for a second here before falling into the trap of saying “strong female saxophonists.” Put the gender aside and acknowledge that she is extremely talented.
We’ll come back to her shortly but the project needs mentioning. The tribute is to composer and conductor Bernard Herrmann, an influence on her from her early childhood and one who wrote scores for so many outstanding psychological thrillers including Mamie, Psycho, and Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock, Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese and Twisted Nerve by Roy Boulting. There are themes from each of these as well as the last one to composer John Williams in Theme to Harry Potter. Marciano’s challenge was to rearrange and adapt these orchestral scores to a jazz quartet, keeping the melodies intact but allowing enough room for improvisation.
She comments, “This also gave us the opportunity to progress in a musical journey we embarked on starting with the first album (this is our fifth), and me, personally, to hold the curse of my visceral, improvisational language, always instinctive and open to risk, an expression of my emotional, spiritual and existential self, baring my soul in absolute freedom through no compromise whatsoever, but rather drive by a strong desire for research and experimentation. I consider the emotions and stimulations generated in me by Herrmann’s music, together with the films in which it’s featured, a wonderful gift. I hope I have been able to thank him through our heartfelt work.”
So, you have some familiar music interpreted aggressively as, true to her word, Marciano holds little back consistently bringing intensity while supported by some of the country’s best in pianist (and husband) Alessandro La Corte (who arranged the Williams piece), bassist Aldo Vigorito and drummer Gaetano Fasano. Although this is their fifth album together, it marks the debut with the prestigious Dutch label Challenge Records. Three of the previous releases appeared on the historic Black Saint label.
Marciano graduated in clarinet from the Conservatory in her hometown, Salerno. She primarily plays alto but is a leading expert on the difficult to play sopranino saxophone. Hailed by many jazz-centric outlets for her technique, energy, expressiveness, and improvisational bent, her playing is nothing short of stunning. This is one of those great “finds” at over an hour’s worth of masterful music – a reminder of how the best jazz can be so moving.