In a recent interview for allaboutjazz.com, Sicilian trombonist Sebi Tramontana opined that he must have been a singer in a previous life--and added that he wouldn't mind being one again the next time around. Tramontana played guitar and soprano saxophone in his teens but settled on trombone at age 21, a choice that might've been influenced by this affinity for singers: whinnies, wahs, hoots, and growls, often produced by vocalizing through the horn, have been a staple of the trombone's vocabulary ever since Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton showcased his uncannily expressive plunger-mute style with Duke Ellington's band in the 20s and 30s. Tramontana is more than capable of playing the trombonist's traditional role in jazz: his measured delivery wrings both dignity and poignancy from the lilting opening melody of Giorgio Gaslini's suite Skies of Europe, from the Italian Instabile Orchestra's ECM album of the same name, and on a quintet recording with German pianist Georg GrŠwe, Concert in Berlin 1996 (Wobbly Rail), his warmth and sensuality balance the chilly abstraction of GrŠwe's music. But he's equally at home in free improvisation--the short, percussive blasts and gruff shouts that he uses to pepper his duets with French bassist Joelle Leandre on E'vero (Leo) bring to mind the atomized outbursts of reed-chomping saxophonists like Mats Gustafsson and Evan Parker. Tramontana spent six weeks in Chicago in 1999, playing several quintet dates with local fixtures Ken Vandermark, Tim Mulvenna, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Kent Kessler; he's also played with some of the same musicians in Europe. He's recorded as-yet-unreleased material with trombonist Jeb Bishop and with Knuckles, a trio including honorary Chicagoan Gustafsson and local sound sculptor Lou Mallozzi. Tramontana's latest project here is a string-heavy drummerless quintet--Terri Kapsalis (violin), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), John Corbett (guitar), and Guillermo Gregorio (clarinet)--which will perform a series of new compositions collectively entitled Night People, after Count Basie trombonist Dickie Wells's autobiography. (Don't expect too much Kansas City swing, though.) Both nights will also include Tramontana in duets with Bishop. Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.