Pericopes + 1

These Human Beings

After earning a fair amount of acclaim in Europe, the Italian duo Pericopes — pianist Alessandro Sgobbio and saxophonist Emiliano Vernizzi — has brought New York-based drummer Nick Wight into the fold for its latest recording. The addition works, bringing more depth and richness to the mix of improvisation and tightly woven compositional elements.

You can hear that dynamic at work immediately on “Through Piat.” Wight establishes a syncopated groove underneath Sgobbio’s ornate phrases and Vernizzi’s relatively straightforward melody.” It hooks you right away. This is also a record of contradictions. Classical elements blend in with group improvisation, as on the middle section of “Through Piat.” On “First Minute of Inception,” Wight breaks up the hymn-like framework with frenzied interludes. On “Jersey Zombies,” Sgobbio’s dark clusters and Vernizzi’s direct attack provide an intriguing tension on top of Wight’s fractured rock-influenced beat. There are lots of shifting meters and time signatures, but for the most part they don’t clutter the strong melodic development and group interplay.

Yet for all the complexity, the group is capable of communicating emotional depth through relatively simple structures. There’s the slow-building crescendo of “Baldwin,” on which Vernizzi soars over Sgobbio’s ascending vamps. During his solo on the ballad “Lo Viatge,” Sgobbio takes a few unexpected harmonic turns during his solo without losing any of its lyricism.

Without a bassist, Sgobbio does an impressive job of locking his left-hand figures with Wight’s grooves, providing the impression of a bottom. On tenor, Vernizzi is fluid and forceful, his declarative statements providing a counterbalance to the more restless nature of the rhythm section. On soprano, he exhibits an unsentimental sensitivity on “Lo Viatge” and “Insunity.”

The group’s most impressive feat is that its ambitions don’t get in the way of the music’s accessibility. They play with intelligence and heart throughout. —John Frederick Moore

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