Louis Siciliano has built a reputation in recent years as one of the few figures in jazz music who has expanded on the advances jazz fusion made in the genre over the last four decades. The form is relatively moribund compared to its 1970’s heyday, but Siciliano didn’t get the memo. He’s taken up the mantle of that style with his latest release Ancient Cosmic Truth and pushes it into new realms. It takes four songs to do so. Each of the EP’s four cuts has a different flavor than the next and there’s no sense of Siciliano treading over familiar ground; there’s no repetition. Instead, Siciliano and his collaborators find a new angle during each song without ever moving outside of the stylistic boundaries he’s placed on the material. It’s quite a ride.
The ride begins with the track “Bambara’s Symmetries”. This track has an up-tempo pace sweeping listeners away soon after the opening and Siciliano’s dazzling synthesizer playing is a definite highlight of the piece. I am an enormous fan of how he and collaborators such as longtime former Weather Report percussionist Alex Acuna, drummer Claudio Romano, trumpet player Randy Brecker, and tenor sax man Umberto Muselli work seamlessly together. They sound like they’ve been playing with one another for many years, even on a recording.
“Translucent Dodecahedron” continues illustrating Siciliano’s command of the synthesizer. Brecker and Muselli do an impressive job of fitting their talents into this relatively unusual setting. The performance does well convey the sci-fi implications of the title without losing the causal listener and much of this has to do with the clear presence of melody in the song. Romano and Acuna shine here, as they do throughout the release, but each of the musicians does an excellent job standing out for the listener. I hear a wild and wooly performance here, but there’s obvious control every step of the way that makes this one of the EP’s most invigorating listening experiences.
Invigorating listening experiences continue with the track “The Secret of Mansa”. I found it intriguing how they take the music in a much different direction than before and the additional emphasis they place on Brecker and Muselli’s presence helps accentuate that break with flavor. The different flavor makes for thoughtful listening and the considered pace of the song, never rushed, allows listeners to relish the texture change. It’s a condensed piece, despite its ambition, and I think it’s notable that Siciliano never allows his ambition to spiral the compositions into out-of-control monoliths.
The same holds true for the EP’s final song. “Ancient Cosmic Truth” has an emphatic sound, it never holds back, and the mix of the different instrumentalists gives the title song a density missing from its predecessors. Vocals are a part of this song, a first for the EP, but they are far from traditional. It ends Ancient Cosmic Truth with a definitive musical statement that never shies away from the high standard set by the first three tracks and points the way toward Louis Siciliano’s increasingly bright future.