ENG DownBeat, Martin Longley (sep.2018)

Rome-based vibraphonist Andrea Biondi has a classical and new music background, but he also has made an investment in jazz and improvisation. Biondi’s compositional approach for the Urban 5 combines 12-tone serialism with a randomness inspired by John Cage’s 1-Ching strategies. Ultimately, the results hold a jazz majority, the character of Biondi’s work suggesting a taste for Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch! The Urban 5 takes some time to reflect its name, beginning the album with a cooler, chamber-ensemble palette, studied and calm. As each of the tracks unwind, elements of that expected abrasiveness and hyperactivity gradually appear. On “Samba Silio,” glistening vibraphone progressions are matched sympathetically with Enrico Bracco’s open, luminous guitar tone, interspersed with Daniele Tittarelli’s tart alto streams. All three instruments frequently seem to be on the brink of soloing, even when negotiating the central theme of a tune. In the final moments of “Pigneto Uncompromissed,” the guitar accumulates dirt for a surprising freak-out climax. It’s quirky touches like this that often derail the listening experience amid otherwise classic sounds. In the middle stretch of the track listing, a suite-like character evolves, making narrative sense as it develops. The first half of the album is strongest, peaking with the increasing urgency of “Brackland,” the bass pushed to a finger-bruising toughness, Ferrazza reveling in a heavily percussive string attack.