by Piotr Michalowski
European improvised music is becoming well known in this country. German, Swedish, British, and Dutch jazz artists have found different routes to original styles, having long ago abandoned the imitation of American models, and some of them tour here regularly. The Italians have not been coming that often, and their work is not as well known here, but a change is about to take place. A decade ago fifteen of the most interesting Italian improvisers came together to form the Italian Instabile Orchestra; they have toured widely and recorded some excellent CDs, bringing much recognition to the music of their country. The orchestra will be coming to the United States later in the year, but this month one of its individualistic members, saxophonist and bass clarinetist Carlo Actis Dato, is visiting on a solo tour.
Dato is a Piedmontese from the industrial city of Turin, but in his youth he lived in the south of Italy and was obviously much influenced by the life and folklore of that region. He first came on the scene in the 1970s and by 1984 had formed the quartet that he still plays with all over the world. He has appeared on more than seventy recordings and has worked with such luminaries as David Murray, Cecil Taylor, and Oliver Lake. While influenced by the instant improvisation and extended instrumental techniques of free jazz, he has always been attracted to melody and form, often invoking southern Italian folk tunes and just about everything else one can think of. He draws on funk, Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Japanese traditions with equal ease, but above all his music is permeated by an absurdist comic irreverence that allows him to communicate with a wider audience without in any way compromising the seriousness of his art.
His clowning cannot hide the fact that Dato is a virtuoso performer, a master of traditional as well as extended techniques on all his instruments. He uses circular breathing with
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