Raffaele Matta Trio – Sounds of Human Activities [2020]

Raffaele Matta Trio – Sounds of Human Activities [2020]

Mar 19, 2020 0 By Marcello Nardi

If taking a fast track to fame is usually an expression that has nothing to do with the average jazz musician, yet there are some who are more underrated than others. And there are even those who feel in their element when being in the shadow, staying humble and unpretentious, yet able to catch the ineffable note many others strive for. Hiding a wealth of hidden knowledge behind each picking, Italian guitarist Raffaele Matta is the kind of musician who plays few notes, honing them carefully, crafting them behind years of meditation and combining them with a sublime degree of empathy. Sardinia-born and part-time resident in India since 2002, Matta has mixed his baseline as a solid jazz musician with Indian classical influences, together with a post-rock rawness, crafting the outcome of his trio work in Sounds of Human Activities.

Raffaele Matta is well-rooted in contemporary jazz, although this was just the starting point of an exploration that brought him elsewhere. He didn’t have an high exposure in the jazz scene, mainly known for two previous albums, Meet me in Sardinia, with Wide Quintet, released in 2005, and Rossonirico published in 2010 at his own name. In the first experience with Wide Quintet, which included as well Italian trumpeter Luca Aquino, Matta was in charge of writing the music as well of guitar duties. An album made of refined and polished contemporary jazz compositions, catchy and complex melodies that showed influences from masters such as Kurt Rosenwinkel. Five years later, in Rossonirico, Matta changed direction to a more intimate and unfathomable style, a more chamber leaning, minimalistic jazz. Yet again his melodic style, the red thread behind his music, progressed by substraction until getting at Sounds of Human Activities. Sided by bassist Andrea Parodo and drummer Nicola Vacca, with the appearance of tablist Sanjay Kansa Banik, Raffaele Matta builds an universe where contemporary jazz meets Indian classical music to create a truly progressive language: we didn’t play Hindustani or Carnatic classical music on purpose, our aim is to get to the core of that rhythmic conception, draw influence from the typical thematic development and then develop our own style. 

Going around the minimal accompaniement by Andrea Parodo, who sketches almost an angular dub, the eponymous track occasionally leans to jazzy elements, but has basically few in common with contemporary jazz. Matta adds weird electronic and raw distorted chords that trigger the ferocious crescendo by the percussions. Kansa Banik and Vacca exchange the seats in the lead, while the two harmonic musicians rest in the background. No wonder that the rhythmical element and the Indian classical music influences this music so much.

Song for poets and drummers is probably the longest track in terms of time that Matta takes to expose himself. The chorus-clean sound of the initial arpeggio sequence prepares for the intimate melody that Vacca and Parodo re-inforce with emotional aggressiveness. Teetering between grace and mundanity, the track unexpectedly moves from staccato sections to more loose themes, that allow the creativity of the dummer. We are constantly striving for restraining our own ego in favor of maintaining the band perspective -says Matta. This is potentially the most important feature in our music. We aren’t looking for showing off. Egotistical thinking is probably the most remote thing in Matta‘s playing. And the track’s closure, after an heartfelt bass solo, is a perfect rendition of this. At around the seven minutes mark, the guitarist comes back in with a pale, essential theme, made of no more than 5-6 notes, conveying a sense of deep immediacy into it.

The ideal depiction of this collective-first approach is the opening track, aptly named India. In the over fourteen minutes it is almost impossible to call a single proper solo by any of the musicians: between the opening and the twelth minute mark, when the deliciously odd-rhythmed opening theme comes back in, there is basically no real change or progression. The main structure of the piece consists of one and three semitones shifts, that give that kind of Indian classical flavor. Yet Raffaele Matta never surrenders the tempation to give floor to intricate virtuoso solos. Even when, around the eight minute mark, the three light the frenzy up, each of the musicians is more prone to listen the others than his own instrument. One minute later Raffaele Matta builds an intricate maze of micro-rhythmic shifts into his solo, one of his trademark since the Wide Quintet era, just making clever use of very few note. Everything ultimately collapse in a descending and then ascending theme that plays around an high pitched note, for one of the most intense moments of the album.

Freestyle Matra, together with Folk Song, is potentially the track that makes wisest balance of the Indian classical music and jazz-rock influences together. No wonder that listeners of Jonas Hellborg, the bassist who played in the ’80s reincarnation of Mahavishnu Orchestra, will find here many interesting cues. There’s a plenty of freaky start and stop unison bars, with Parodo and Matta highlighting a rollercoaster theme at the start. Yet it is the fluidly flamboyant playing by Vacca to frequently catch the attention. I created a kind of calculation tool that helps to translate the huge richness of Indian music -says Raffaele Matta. This allows creating patterns that percussions, mainly drums, could use as turning points to create improvisations, playing chordal progressions like it was a melodic instrument. Drums improvises according to this rhytmical pattern, from a certain perspective.

Raffaele Matta crafts a world of multiple influences in Sounds of Human Activities, where his vision of a collective creation is still predominant. His style is clear, refined and his voice is very undistinguishable. Yet he always strives for playing music for the others and with the band in mind. The listener benefits from that, no matter the travel is fourteen or two minutes long. Still the music retains a ritual aspect, subly combined with the intensity of the moment, that catches the attention.

Raffaele Matta Trio
Sounds of Human Activities

Music by Raffaele Matta

Raffaele Matta : Guitar
Andrea Parodo : Bass
Nicola Vacca : Drums

With guest on Tabla : Sanjay Kansa Banik

  1. India
  2. Sounds of Human Activities
  3. Song for poets and drummers
  4. Two Rivers
  5. Freestyle Matra
  6. Indian Dust
  7. Chartaal
  8. Folk Song
  9. Bandra Blue
  10. All the way to Rajasthan