Daniele Cavallanti (tenor saxophone, ney flute) and Tiziano Tononi (drums) have been a musical couple for nearly four decades, an integral of the Italian creative music scene. Besides their own projects (especially their group Nexus), both are founding members of the Italian Instabile Orchestra. They have recorded projects dedicated to Don Cherry, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. They have collaborated with a slew of internationally known musicians including trumpeter Enrico Rava, bassist Mark Dresser, saxophonist Dewey Redman, drummer Andrew Cyrille, and many others. Yet, with all these great recordings, the duo has never recorded in the United States.
Until now, that is. On June 15 and 16, just a few days after Ornette Coleman passed, Cavallanti and Tononi entered Douglass St. Studios in Brooklyn, NY, with Herb Robertson (cornet), Steve Swell (trombone, flute), and Joe Fonda (bass) – a quintet dubbed The Brooklyn Express – to record the seven tracks that make up “No Time Left!” (Long Song Records). With the exception of the opening cut “Brooklyn: Monday Soundcheck”, the songs are dedicated to musicians that the leaders have to looked to for inspiration. Tononi’s “New York Funeral Blues…(for Ornette C.)” is self-explanatory, the music a slow dirge/drag with moaning cornet, wailing saxophone and keening trombone, closing with Cavallanti’s powerful solo coda. Other musicians celebrated are Gil Evans (“Untitled # 1″), a pace that changes tempos and intensity several times, and South African ex-patriate bassist/composer Harry Miller. Cavallanti’s “Song For Harry Miller” builds up from the powerful interactions of the drummer and Fonda into a fiery piece with solos from the bassist, composer (on tenor), trombonist and, finally, Tononi. The longest piece (20:29) is “Slap, Tones & Drones (for Bill Dixon)” certainly lives up to its name with a noisy, rubato, opening, that lasts nearly half the piece before giving way to a short tenor/drums interchange and then a powerful drum solo. The bass and drums slide into a rambunctious beat that fires up the saxophonist one more time. The final track dedicated to a musician who has passed is the funky “I See You Now, Jim! (for Jim Pepper)”. – listen to the grooves Fonda lays down and that Tononi picks up on and accentuates, I doubt you’ll be able to sit still.
There is 1 track, “Cyrille, The Inspirer”, that is dedicated to a living master (and one of Tononi’s teachers). Credited to the quintet and producer Fabrizio Perissinotto, the music goes in several directions in its 12:14 After a noisy beginning, the music take a number of surprising turns including a section where Cavallanti, Swell, and Fonda have a conversation on flutes. Also surprising is the fact that though the piece is dedicated to a drummer, there is not a drum solo.
“No Time Left” has many moments that lift the listener off his chair, with powerful solos and exciting interactions created by five people who embody the meaning of creative musicians. Take The Brooklyn Express to the end of the line and get back aboard – this is quite the ride.