Italian baritone sax player Luca Tommaso Mai, known from the avant-punkish power-trio Zu, wanted to offer his own sonic universe in his debut solo album «Heavenly Guide». The album reframes his early jazz influences – the music of Thelonious Monk and Eric Dolphy, in a charged, manipulated, looped and layered sonic envelope, while employing through different effects and pedals. All lead to his own powerful, celestial soundscapes.
«Heavenly Guide» was recorded in September 2018 with Mai surrounded by 5 microphones in the studio. It lasts only 25 packed minutes that begin with the irreverent interpretation of Monk’s classic «Epistrophy», introduced by deep distorted, atmospheric sounds before Mai’s sax resurfaces and recites the familiar theme with uncompromising raw energy. The title-piece suggests a more reserved and melancholic course, transforming the baritone sax to a choir of mourning voices. «Manum ad Ferrum» adopts the brutal rhythmic attack of Zu, where that guttural baritones sax is distilled through many effects that keep the dirty, merciless approach.
«The Sound of his Horn» and «Bahr Atla» surprise with its vulnerable, emotional tone. Dolphy’s «Gazzelloni» (from «Out to Lunch») sounds as written especially for hyperactive and restless sax players as Mai. He injects potent steroids to the theme and clearly enjoys the sudden turns and the highly original language of Dolphy, the musician who made him pick the saxophone. Mai ends this deep and immersive journey with a minimalist, quiet drone «Celestial Nile», letting the manipulated ripples of sax sounds resonate on and on.
Luca T. Mai (bs)