oAxAcA ‘Onde Di Sabbia’ LP (2 Headed Deer) 4/5

Spanish label, 2 Headed Deer, who describe themselves as ‘jazz-infused’, have recently released Onde Di Sabbia (Waves of Sand) by Italian free jazz collective oAxAcA. I’m guessing this is pronounced like the Mexican city of Oaxaca. The band consist of Ivan Gross (percussion and noise) Diego Viada (trumpet) Tato Filipazzi (bass) Alberto Dutto (guitars) Mattia Bernandi (drums and percussion) Stephano Isaia (clarinet and sax) on a couple of tracks. This is their first release on 2 Headed Deer but their third album following their 2011 debut and Salvatoria from 2014, so maybe what you might call an occasional free jazz collective.

I understood the first track, ‘Trittico’ better when it dawned on me that the Italian title translates as ‘Triptych’ and sure enough it has three distinct passages. Beginning with a section all about the heavy pulse of Tato Filipazzi’s bass, the instrument is central, like a stake being hammered into the earth leaving the other musicians to swirl around the periphery of this seemingly invincible structure. Alberto Dutto’s guitar and Mattia Bernardo’s drums offer a trace of Captain Beefheart in abstract detailing while the 70s Miles Davis style wah-wah trumpet of Diego Viada also echoes around the pounding bassline. Around the 7 minute mark, the tempo changes and focus turns to Dutto’s guitar. Sonny Sharrack and John McLaughlin are plucked from the mood board and accompanied by a tentative series of percussive clicks and claps. The final section is calmer, like a chant based around a trumpet motif which gradually becomes powerfully insistent as the song closes. It’s been an exhilarating 17 minutes.

The enigmatic title track ‘Onde de Sabbia’ (Waves of Sand) neatly illustrated on the sleeve art with a photograph of sand left rippled by a retreating tide, follows on side one of the LP release. It sits comfortably after ‘Trittico’, it’s relatively short duration providing an oceanic atmosphere. It commences as a wave or pulse, a jangling guitar emphatically gives a sense of menace. Soon the trumpet finds a theme, the rest of the band join the ebb and flow of this disquieting interlude.

A different mood is altogether apparent in ‘Reich’ an uptempo Latin meets Afrobeat hybrid with more added Beefheart tinged guitar grooves. Certainly, this is an unexpected shift, I couldn’t decide whether having this drop out of the sky was a good idea or not. It probably makes more sense on the LP release as it’s the first tune on side two.

The last of the six tracks on the album is ‘Pannella’, maybe it’s a homage to Marco Pannella Italian political activist and civil rights campaigner? It’s definitely a punk-jazz affair with a late 70s new wave feel. At the beginning is the faintest sample of an old bebop tune I was unable to identify, the same sample is audible at the end of the previous track, ‘640 Blues’ I like these intriguing details.

Onde Di Sabbia is an album which frequently changes gear stylistically, usually with impressive ease. On a couple of tracks perhaps rather abruptly but the eclectic influences on this disc offer ample listener satisfaction.

James Read