Luca Perciballi and Ivan Valentini’s “Letting Things Follow Their Lead”

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Room Music

A freely improvised performance doesn’t exist as a work until it’s finished in real time; in a way it’s analogous to a narrative that has no definite meaning until it reaches that point at which it comes to a close and reveals what it meant to say retrospectively, even as it builds a distinct sense and identifiable logic along the way. In creating a free improvisation the performer can willfully direct its unfolding logic or can instead let the music’s own emerging will-to-be – if we can call it that – guide him or her instead. With Room Music, a fully improvised set by guitarist Luca Perciballi and saxophonist Ivan Valentini, the two performers approach improvisation through a philosophy of intending its development by “letting things follow their lead.”

Room Music, which was recorded in Modena in May of 2021, consists of ten tracks, each simply named with the number of its position within the track sequence. The pieces were taken from a single session which Perciballi and Valentini present without subsequent overdubs or edits. In addition to electric guitar Perciballi plays classical nylon string guitar, banjo, and objects; Valentini plays alto and soprano saxophones and objects.

In “letting things follow their lead,” Perciballi and Valentini allow their improvisations to develop through an interchange of movement and stasis. The former can take the shape of defined, propulsive rhythms, as on Eight’s insistent banjo pulse, Five’s minor key groove for electric guitar with agile accentuation from the alto saxophone, and Two’s quasi-sequencer ostinato for soprano saxophone. Counterbalancing these moments of explicit forward movement are passages where Perciballi and Valentini work with a static tone or chord, as on One, or where Perciballi sets out a tension-laden arpeggio holding still at its center while undergoing incremental changes along its edges. In their more abstract moments Perciballi and Valentini play with pure sound and extended techniques, as on the episodic Three and the desert soundscape of Six. For sheer beauty there is Nine, an essay in elaborately extemporized composition. There, Perciballi invents an exquisite chord progression on classical guitar over which Valentini improvises a lyrical soprano saxophone melody.