Stefano Maltese Open Sound Ensemble Living Alive

Sicilian composer/reed player Maltese leads an international sextet of improvisers that emphasises the word open, in more ways than one. A generous leader, he allows the assembled players plenty of room to stretch out on solos, yet there is an economy and sparseness to the playing. Maltese is also open to music from all over world, and while Living Alive has its roots firmly in the tradition of composers like Mingus, Gil Evans and Henry Threadgill, it is also infused with Mediterranean folk idioms and Arabic textures. This stylistic diversity is also apparent in the album's many moods from the terse, astringent exotic colours on "Crossing Stars" to the tangled knots of "Unreal City" to the subdued, searching piano on "Les Jours Et Les Reves" and the gorgeous melodies on the closing ballad, "Wide Eyes Kissing." As the liner notes point out: "Ensemble cohesion is total, stunning considering the protagonists had known each other barely a week." (Leo)