Italian trombonist Sebi Tramontana belongs to the innovative lineage of musicians who revolutionized the role and the sonic possibilities of the trombone – Albert Mangelsdorff and subsequently Paul Rutherford, Connie Bauer and Giancarlo Schiaffini. He has played with great improvisers like Barry Guy, Evan Parker, Joëlle Léandre, Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark, and was part of the Italian Instabile Orchestra. «Unfolding To Be You» is Tramontana’s solo album that offers 15 15 self-portraits exploring the trombone in multiple directions.
The insightful liner notes of Italian writer and scholar Stefano Zenni insist that Tramontana extends the basic concepts of African musical aesthetics in which instruments actually speak, and become the vehicle for other voices, for the spirits that live within it. Any musician should reveal these hidden, intrinsically polyphonic voices from within the instrument’s inner heart: the human voice, the voice of a spirit, and of course the physical voice of the instrument itself. Thanks to African-American music, this non-Western aesthetic then spread across from the United States to Europe where, in the 1970s, many musicians began to explore and develop these practices, often taking them to extremes.
Tramontana makes the trombone a shape-shifting entity. It talks, sings, laughs, sighs and cries, and even imitates animal cries and calls or forgets altogether that it is only a trombone. He rediscovers its witty and humorous role, so characteristic of clowning and of the early days of jazz, but also investigates its sonic palette as an imaginative instrument that transforms the pure sound of the air and sketches instant, moving songs. You can find in this arresting journey echoes of Duke Ellington’s trombone masters, but also Tramontana’s extended breathing techniques and one-of-a-kind musical personality. Tramontana actually sings – with his very human song and with the trombone – a touching «morning song».
Zenni compares the listening experience to «Unfolding To Be You» to Chinese Daoist sage Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream. «Is it Sebi Tramontana? Is it a restless and impish spirit? Is it the instruments’ arcane mechanics? Or is it all three of them together? Perhaps it is Sebi being played by the instrument’s inner spirit? Or is it a standard that is trying to make itself heard in the midst of ambiguous and indistinct melodies? Is it gastric reflux or Ravel’s ghost? Is it really Sebi Tramontana?» I guess that Tramontana, following the wisdom of Chuang Tzu, would say that all answers are right. He and the trombone are one, inseparable.
Sebastiano Tramontana (tb, v)