The following notes relate to two different releases and were written as a view of the whole. All the piano solo tracks are found on Joseph Scianni's Night People (CIMP 130). The rest of the performances mentioned appear on Joseph Scianni-Dominic Duval-Jay Rosen's Big Onion (CIMP 122).
I had no memory of Joseph Scianni before Dominic Duval enthusiastically brought him to my attention in December of 1995. I was pretty involved in the New Music scene in 1965 when Mr. Scianni (born 10/6/28) released his debut recording (Sept. 1963), a duo with David Izenzon, for Savoy Records. In addition, Joseph Scianni was part of the October Revolution and was involved with some of the best of the avant garde of the period. He has worked and recorded (unreleased sessions) with people such as Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry, Stu Martin, and an occasional loft jam with Ornette Coleman. That somehow his presence had completely eluded me both as a fan and as an archivist/historian was a bit humbling, especially when I considered the substance of his piano work.
The circumstances of how Dominic became aware of Joseph Scianni's music and how, years later, he made his acquaintance is stranger than fiction and a rather involved and entertaining story which I'll leave for some enterprising interviewer to draw out. However, when they did finally meet, Joseph, who both knew and respected bassist David Izenzon, felt it to be a spiritual moment since Dominic, for whom Izenzon's stature is near heroic, resembles the late bassist and, I think, also evokes his physical stance with the bass. Dominic's suggestion to add a drummer was met with a notable lack of enthusiasm due to Joseph's frustrated attempts in the past to find a drummer who didn't trap him in time. Dominic assured him that Jay was an exception. And indeed, as Jay's previous CIMP recordings (#106, #110, #119) will attest, he is a remarkable percussionist who knows both his place and his space. It was Jay's prompting during the recording which helped get this session into full forward high gear with Road Under Construction. Up until that moment things had been rather subdued, due to a series of events including a longer-than-expected tuning of the Steinway concert grand piano, the usual period of adjusting to the room, piano, and each other, and attending to Joseph's splitting fingers which had noticeably discolored the keys with blood.
By 1:30 p.m. we had captured a number of good takes and Joseph wanted to keep going, but because the tape was nearing its end, I called a short break.
After reloading the tapes Dominic suggested Joseph start off solo. Joseph launched into Luv Ya Judy (for Ms. Garland) and, with only pauses to refocus, astounded us with eight consecutive solos. The performance was stunning. After some decompression, cleaning more blood off the keys, and adjusting to the adrenaline caused by such a performance, the trio regrouped and picked things up with Night And Day a case of energy defying the laws of physics. The session ended with Fast Food on which Dominic played the inside of the piano while Joseph played the keys.
I am presenting this program in the order it happened. For those who want to hear it in complete continuity, note that the solo pieces (CIMP 130) start after Ruins Of Time and end before Night And Day (CIMP 122).
Joseph Scianni's playing makes perfect sense and comes and goes exactly as you'd expect, as long as you don't expect anything. What you will find is greatness.
Robert D. Rusch