Matt Renzi (ts, cl), David Ambrosio (b), Russ Meissner (d)
Bar code: 8427328422260
A San Francisco native, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Matt Renzi was born into a musical family. His father is principal flautist with the San Francisco Symphony and his grandfather was principal oboist with Toscaninis NBC Symphony. He received a BA in performance from Berklee College of Music and studied with George Garzone, John Handy, Joe Henderson and South Indian Vocalist R.A. Ramamani.
Matt has appeared at festivals and venues throughout North America as well as Europe, Japan, Israel, India, Singapore and Angola. Of note is his work with Dialogue, a band led by legendary bassist, Herbie Lewis. He can be heard on a variety of recordings including the award winning Lines and Ballads for Fresh Sound Records. Matt has also performed and recorded with Marc Johnson, Michael Formanek, Eddie Marshall, Tommy Campbell, Eberhard Weber, and Matt Garrison. The Cave is his new recording for Fresh Sound Records. It features David Ambrosio on bass, and Russ Meissner on drums.
The music on this recording represents a four-year span of experiences living in Japan, Italy, New York, and India.
"While not an uncommon format, the saxophone trio is often a more challenging context than piano or guitar-led groups. Without the benefit of a chordal instrument, a saxophone/bass/drums trio can feel like a quartet minus one, as opposed to a complete entity unto itself.
Not so with this group led by saxophonist/clarinetist Matt Renzi, a San Francisco native who has spent the past few years living in a variety of locationsJapan, New York, India, and Italy. His trio with bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Russell Meissner did a couple of tours before recording The Cave, developing a vocabulary that capitalizes on the potential harmonic freedom of the chordless trio, as well as its inherent spaciousness. Renzis rich sense of melody and Ambrosios ability to provide harmony and/or counterpoint to Renzi, as well as serve as rhythmic anchor with Meissner, act as constant reminders that understated suggestion can often be more powerful than overt declaration.
Renzis trio takes as precedent Dave Hollands classic Conference of the Birds (ECM, 1973) with Holland's pastoral title track feeling like a not-so-distant cousin to Renzis Poison Ivy, which opens The Cave. But Renzi has a gentler touch, with none of the harsher qualities that woodwind multi-instrumentalists Anthony Braxton or Sam Rivers demonstrated on Hollands session. Similarly, while Ambrosio possesses an unerring sense of groove that's similar to Holland's, this trio date demands that he assume a more dominant harmonic role much of the time. And while this trios idea of freedom never reaches the kind of jagged extremes found on Conference of the Birds, it comes from a similar space, where strong compositions acts as jumping-off points for deeper exploration.
Renzi's writing is consistently thematic, but the chemistry he shares with Ambrosio and Meissner is what allows the material to be rooted in form yet so open to free play. Miessner is as comfortable in a textural role on the rubato The Rice Shed as he is a more straightforward rhythmic one on the delicately insistent In Circles. Ambrosio may show considerable contrapuntal intuition on the three-part closer, Three Stories, but he balances that with a more definitive groove on both the uptempo Faces and Places and the hypnotic, Indian-inflected To the Cave, which feels like a calmer version of John Zorns Masada Quartet.
Despite a free and responsive style that finds serendipitous connections with Ambrosio and Meissner, Renzis openmindedness is rooted in a lyrical approach. Almost despite his command of extended techniquestonguing the reed to create pointed percussive sounds and making restrained use of multiphonicshe remains a highly approachable player who favours smooth surfaces over hard edges. His approach is surprisingly vocalor perhaps not, considering that hes studied South Indian vocal music with R.A. Ramamani.
The Cave proves its possible to be free without being abstruse, open to any possibility while remaining focused. A fine disc from a group which also puts to rest any suggestions that saxophone trios are inherently missing something."
-John Kelman (All About Jazz)
"From reedman Matt Renzi's wanderlust comes The Cave, music inspired by a four-year period when the musician lived in Japan, New York, India, and Italy.
On this approachable trio effort, Renzi and company have crafted a sound that walks a line between the familar and the exotic, a music full of cool tones and wandering melodies. Renzi splits his time between tenor saxophone and clarinet, and the mood is often haunting, especially on the tenor tunes, his own having a searching quality, at times drifting over into the free side, but in a restrained way.
Renzi's trio with bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Russell Meissner has done a couple of tours of Italy and Japan, and the musicians display a consistently empathic equilibrium and gentle but insistent momentum through the entire set. Renzi's tone on tenor has a ringing clarity that gets hauntingly hoarse at times, especially on In Circles. The set stays in the midtempo range with lots of dark tones, and at times one wishes for a tad more intensity, for the trio's low flame to flare up and roar a bit.
That it doesn'ttake it on its own termsmeans the listener can best appreciate The Cave by giving it his undivided attention. The closer, the thirteen-minute Three Stories, a three part suite, is especially rewarding, by turns bright and eerie, threaded together with Japanese strands, influenced by the time Renzi has spent in Manhattan and Kyoto."
-Dan McClenaghan (All About Jazz)
"Basic saxophone trio, the leader playing tenor and clarinet. I know very little about him: born San Francisco, father played flute in the SF Symphony, studied at Berklee with the George Garzone (like, who didn't?); has four records I've never hard. Never heard of bassist and drumer either. Booklet has short note from Renzi: "The music on this recording represents a four-year span of experiences living in Japan, Italy, New York, and India." The most striking thing about this record is how centered it is: Renzi plays difficult music but makes it look easy because he doesn't go in for the stress and force of most avant saxophonists. Not sure where this will land eventually, but for a first play I enjoyed it a lot."
-Tom Hull (www.tomhull.com)