This is one of those albums that really needs some kind of documentation in order for the listener to gain a proper understanding and appreciation of it. Regrettably, however, such information is almost entirely absent in this case. Cardinal are an Italian jazz quartet whose music walks the line between composition and improvisation. The sleeve notes to this, their first collaboration, make great play of the fact that most of the pieces on the record were realized through the use of graphic scores. Naturally I reached for the booklet, hoping that these scores, or at least extracts from them, would be reprinted as an aid to following the music. Yet with the exception of one poorly reproduced illustration, the four-panel insert contains no such extracts, leaving the listener completely in the dark as to the theoretical basis of the group’s work.
An unfair objection, you might think. Especially since one of my all-time musical heroes, Anthony Braxton, doesn’t reproduce his graphic scores in his CD booklets, and you won’t hear me complaining about that. The difference, inevitably, is that Braxton’s music is strong and vivid enough to captivate the listener without the need for exegesis. The same can’t be said for Cardinal, whose nine workouts for trumpet, piano, bassoon and percussion come and go without ever making much of an impression.
Opener “Vocale” is a timid and bloodless thing, Mirio Cosottini’s trumpet limping along on a simple repeated motif which rapidly becomes tiresome. On “Vento Salato” the same trumpet holds a one-sided and petty dialogue with Tonino Miano’s tentative pianistics. “Jump-U-Funk” briefly holds out the hope of something a little more, well, funky, before dissolving into a messy and aimless coda. Such manoeuvres are typical of this generally undistinguished record, which I have no interest in hearing ever again.
(Originally published in The Sound Projector 19, 2011)