Francesco Covarino – Olive

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

The standard approach with drums is having them anchor everything else, there’s also a tendency to insert dramatic flourishes in one’s playing so as to let people know who’s the engine. Francesco is not one of these types; no big runs through the toms nor are you going to come across a 30 or 40 piece kit. I have known some drummers in my time and let me tell you, this guy’s humility is a rare trait to come across.

He doesn’t give you anything on this record except his playing. No singer, no wailing guitars and no bassist simmering in the background with their six strings primed for a fusion solo.

In a manner quite incompatible with a lot of others out there he zeroes in on one element of his array per piece and then gets into it right down to the barest of expression. Another detail to note would be his refusal to put things in a sequential order, you’ll start high up in the 90s and then a little over halfway through you’re down below the teens. It would appear he has many of these little excursions for us as there are jumps between numbers which leave a lot of uncharted ground left to be explored.

Covarino really likes his silence, the pauses between sounds are no doubt there to add dynamics and increase the level of atmosphere. But for all the experimenting going on you can feel a subtle investigation of recognized time signatures which is interesting to contrast against the expressive playing he demonstrates for us. It’s easy to dismiss this as primordial noodling about until you’ve listened closely to how these pieces are put together.

This one is working off of instinct.

In his statement about ‘Olive’ he makes it plain that he’s no theory-driven studio session player. His inspiration for this entire outing was his daughter: he wanted her to know exactly what he was doing on a particular date before she’d been born. I’d have never guessed this no matter how many times I listened. There’s an inscrutable layer of opacity to ‘Olive’ and try as I might I can’t make out any other background noises despite him saying this was recorded in busy surroundings.

There are no discernible overdubs, so these are one-take tracks. The amount of discipline required to do that is remarkable, apparently random yet absolutely precise work even down to the exact date it was completed.

Review completed Monday, October 30 2017, 11.18AM PST.

Francesco CovarinoOlive
Thirsty Leaves Music, TLM11
CD/Digital 2017

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