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Valerio Cosi - Collected Works

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Artist: Valerio Cosi

Album: Collected Works

Label: Porter

Review date: Oct. 29, 2008

Not yet a quarter-century old, Lizzano, Italy’s Valerio Cosi has already made a significant stamp on the CD-R circuit. The talented saxophonist’s discography of limited-run mini-albums (from one-sided cassettes to 3” CDs and nearly every other quirky format in between), contributions and compilation tracks number nearly 40 deep with at least eight more reported releases before 2008 shuts its doors for good. And to top it all off, Cosi kicks off his five-year exclusive contract with the burgeoning jazz/experimental imprint Porter Records (Henry Grimes, Rashied Ali, Odeon Pope, Joe Chambers, Byard Lancaster, etc.) with a retrospective of his best tracks over the past three years.

Despite the prominence of alto on Collected Works, Cosi’s saxophonic muse is obviously Pharoah Sanders. Like Sanders’ expressionistic tenor, Cosi regularly blends timbral distortions, fiery solos and moody melodies with Eastern atmospheres. And he takes it a few steps further; sitar-and-tabla ragas often act as mood setters as Cosi layers on tribalistic drums, tape manipulations, post-punk bass lines, krautrock synths and, of course, plenty of saxophone. And most importantly – as with Sanders’ late-’60s releases – Cosi understands how to use ostinato to breathe both texture and urgency into his deftly layered home-recorded opuses.

The majority of Collected Works is re-mastered material pulled from his Foxglove and Students of Decay releases between 2005 and 2007. The songwriting is surprisingly mature for such a young musician, and he has a talented ear for stratal compositions. The variety of styles presented is also impressive.

“I Wanna be Free” (originally entitled “I Wanna be Black”) is a successful attempt to combine the styles of Sanders and Japanese noise artist Maso Yamazaki. Over-modulating drums and korg synth sirens slowly bury tribal percussion rattling and Cosi’s reverberating sax squeals in a throbbing mess of noise. Later, “Lovely Blue Cream” sounds like Archie Shepp (or for a more contemporary comparison, Ken Vandermark) fronting a post-punk band thanks to the incessant fuzz bass line motoring the song. And though “Interstellar Trane” is obviously homage to John Coltrane and Rashied Ali’s duet Interstellar Space, it is much closer to Four Tet remixing an Art Ensemble of Chicago cut.

Collected Works is an excellent introduction to the music of Valerio Cosi. He successfully marries the musical ideals of late-’60s/early-’70s cerebral jazz with the aughts’ unceasing love of home-recorded digital psychedelia. Not an easy feat. And at 23, the young Italian’s best work is surely still ahead of him.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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