Stephen Gauci (1966, NY, NY), who basically went unrecorded for the first 35 years of his life, has come on strong in the first part of the 21st century. From 2004 through 2006 he will have recorded and led five different recording dates and been a prominent sideman on others. At this time in his career Stephen seems to have three active groups: the first (2004) a trio with Mike Bisio and Jay Rosen; the second (the genesis of which was also in 2004) a trio with Jeremy Carlstedt and Todd Nicholson; and now this latest edition, which started in 2005, with Ken Filiano (1952, Patchogue, NY) and Lou Grassi (1947, Summit, NJ).
Stephen is as intense as he is enthusiastic with a plethora of ideas and concepts he wants to work out, and is always suggesting to me that our recording release pace should really catch up with his latest projects and development. In conversations I had with him in October of 2005, he told me he wanted to present his concepts “in a front line with another horn.” Stephen perhaps had been inspired after sharing the front line with Avram Fefer as part of Mike Bisio’s quartet which had recorded earlier that year (CIMP 323). The quartet format, he felt, would give him a new “tougher” challenge than the trio formats and it would offer a greater expansiveness for his writing. He chose Nate Wooley (1974, Clatskanie, OR), a trumpeter who’s been skipping along the radar while developing positive notices on both coasts ever since his first recording as part of the Sangha Trio (1997) and, more recently, with his trio Blue Collar (with Steve Swell and Tatsuya Nakatani).
In the time leading up to this recording, Stephen repeatedly emphasized to me both how good he felt about the group and the importance he put on writing for it.
The group arrived without incident and the sound check indicated that Stephen had brought music that reflected his insistence and, with it, a group set to forcefully and dynamically attack. All the elements seemed to be present for successful documentation. Even so, the sound check was protracted and sandwiched dinner, as the group made numerous adjustments trying to nail the proper and accurate sound stage. Around 8 p.m. they finally hit—powerfully—with Unless you got lost … . It is interesting how Stephen (following Nate’s pretty-turned-hot declarations) draws back as he develops an almost sub solo, under Ken and Lou’s ratcheted rhythm, then slowly turns it around and comes full-bore back into the center of the music’s thrust, the quartet building the momentum into a stop-time release that literally propelled my listening into space. A powerful artist and a powerful group.
This continued throughout the night. Distractive multi-dimensional music played, drew me in, filled me up, and, through my emotional involvement, allowed me to turn seamlessly with its various directions and changes.
There’s just not a weak link in the line. Over and over, thoughtful and emotive statements would pour out with purpose and originality, perhaps best exemplified on my death? which offers stunning contributions both individually and collectively. The fact is, as notable as this music is, the time surrounding the quartet’s stay was rather subdued and uneventful; pleasant, congenial, but there was nothing that diverted any focus or energy from the music.
By the end of the night’s recording, Steve had justified his enthusiasm voiced to me regarding both this group and the success of the challenge in writing for it. Ten compositions had been exposed with nary a false start or second take, witness to the effort and dedication Steve and group had made over the past many months. At night’s end Stephen said they still had yet to address another seven compositions that had been rehearsed and prepared. And so, as is sometimes the case when time and talent and the mystery of artistic elements conspire to the positive, we continued the next morning to document this masterful music and therefore can offer up another prime helping, or more to the point, a second CD of uncompromised creative improvised music.
For listeners that demand much, this will give back as much as you want in its exceptional substance and the exemplary display of Nate’s, Ken’s, Lou’s, and Steve’s artistry.
Sometimes good things come out of subdued surroundings and sometimes exceptional things will result, as this music proves in eloquent testimony. Listen!
Robert D. Rusch - April 8, 2006
Stephen Gauci can also be heard on CIMPs 323, 326, 351, 361, and Cadence Jazz Records 1180, 1190.
Ken Filiano can also be heard on CIMPs 111, 116, 129, 218, 219, 226, 233, 249, 286, 313, 318, 321, 346, 356
Lou Grassi can also be heard on CIMPs 116, 123, 144, 156, 161, 169, 182, 184, 201, 207, 219, 226, 227, 242, 262, 266, 271, 278, 291, 297, 313, 316, 318, 332, 342, 344.