Certainly I did not expect to hear the music I have been listening to with rapt interest on the CD Third Reel (ECM B0018266-02) by a trio of Nicolas Masson (tenor saxophone and clarinet), Roberto Pianca (electric guitar) and Emanuele Maniscalco (drums). Part of that has to do with unfamiliarity. I do not know these players. Part of that has to do with the ECM experience. There is always some sort of adventure in store. The rest is about the music. It is very good.
This is a Swiss-Italian rooted band of three bandleader-composer-instrumentalists of distinction. The CD comprises 16 very short to middlingly short pieces, two of them collaborative works by all three members, the rest individually written by each of the band members in turn and improvised around by the group. As Masson puts it on the press sheet I received with the advance promo copy, Pianca often centers his compositions around chordal colors, Maniscalco strives for melodic beauty and Masson tends towards the contrapuntal.
What all that translates into is the more cosmic side of the ECM sound today. This is music of substance, often with the edge of electricity from Pianca's wired, pretty cranked guitar work, which adds much to the group's ambiance. Other times Pianca gives you arpeggiated, slightly bending space chords in cloudy envelopes of less distorted sound. Masson too is key--quite nicely expansive, a post-Garbarek to Pianca's post-Rypdal. Maniscalco's drumming is creative, atmospheric and propulsive as needed. It's not all torched electricity--there is much too in the way of moody, flowing spaciness and compositional breadth. But each piece of the puzzle, 16 in all, gives you a slightly different vantage point, like that unknown building going up before your eyes. In the end you have it and it was worth the wait.
This is a new generation of ECM jazzers. They are good. I hope they continue to evolve and build on this, their impressive first offering. The music is strong!