Songs from the Broken Land

Mick Rossi | Orange Mountain Music (2010)
by Vincenzo Roggero

Six variations on “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Foster, a free interpretation for solo viola “Solfegietto” by Johnnie Valentino and then a sequence of brief improvisations, the greater part with prepared piano, for a total of twenty-two tracks, forty-nine minutes.

Mick Rossi cements himself in this enterprise: pianist, percussionist, composer -- one of the most lucid, original and creative minds of the New York scene, and long-time collaborator with Philip Glass. Certainly in “Songs from the Broken Land” we notice Rossi's connection to minimalism’s guru: for the purity of shapes, the apparent expressive simplicity that hides a profound research into sound and silence, for the use of brief melodic cells, developed through graceful harmonic and rhythmic shifts.

In this expressive component, in an absolutely natural and someway surprising way, Rossi inserts the refined jazz and musical ideas of Lennie Tristano, harmonically and rhythmically complex, using sophisticated dissonances on normally expected chord progressions. "Lockdown," one of the longest improvisations on the disc, has more than one assonance with pieces like “Turkish Mambo” or "East Thirty-Second”, for the hypnotic and obsessive work of Mick’s left hand in low registers, that nourishes an atmosphere of great tension and expectation.

Tension and expectation pervade the whole work although the relaxation and fluency of the performance, thanks to the unpredictable development of the improvisations, by hinted phrases, allowing them to fall down, successively retaken, transformed and driven to different lands: thanks to the ability in avoiding clichés, always behind the corner, and in utilizing the formidable technique for offering to the listener the deepest side, intimate and essential of his own art. The six variations of "My Old Kentucky Home" are small pearls of measuredness and creativity: they are characterized by the metal stamp of the prepared piano and recount different implications of a similar story, emphasizing, time after time, particular rhythmic aspects that rotate around the melody. And they form a sort of fil rouge of the whole recording: the return home for the improvisatory deviations and extemporaneous creations of Mick Rossi.

“Songs from the Broken Land” is a disc that masterfully combines avant-garde and jazz’s stylistic elements, contemporary music and improvisation.

In short, it is not to be missed!

Visit the website of Mick Rossi:
Rating:: 4.5 stars

List of the pieces:
My Old Kentucky Home. Variation 1 (S.Foster); 02. Dog Smiles; 03. Lockdown; 04. Broken Land; 05. My Old Kentucky Home. Variation 2; 06. Critical Mass; 07. Temporal Drift; 08. Lab Rat; 09. Ghost Girl; 10. My Old Kentucky Home. Variation 3; 11. Sans Jour; 12. Wrecking Ball; 13. Without; 14. Sonar; 15. Solfegietto (Johnnie Valentino); 16. My Old Kentucky Home. Variation 4; 17. Rods and Cones; 18. One Leaning Against the Next; 19. My Old Kentucky Home. Variation 5; 20. Jim Dine; 21. Go; 22. My Old Kentucky Home. Variation 6.
All the pieces are by Mick Rossi, except for the indicated ones.

Mick Rossi (piano, prepared piano).
Style: Modern Jazz

Translation: Laura Effeddu