Sicilian saxophonist Gianni Gebbia is something of a pariah among international jazz hipsters. A consummately lyrical player dedicated to experimental investigation, his signature style on soprano and alto saxes (and less conventional wind instruments) defies the neat parameters set forth by the Continent's arbiters of high art. That means some of Europe's infamous free improvisers tend to consider Gebbia's music too rooted in melody — not “out” enough — to be kindred with their avant-gardisms, while the allegedly more conservative Eurojazz cats hear his sound as leaning too far to the left: i.e., not “jazz” at all.
An outsider among the outsiders, Gebbia has been embraced by the Bay Area's inclusive creative-music community, which makes perfect sense: San Francisco has long been regarded by the rest of the country as a quirky, insular town whose music scene can't compare to that of, say, New York or Chicago. But those who follow global new-music developments know this is a gross misconception. Despite marginal audience and media support, inventive music thrives in the Bay Area. And some of the scene's top-tier players will be turning out to welcome home their Mediterranean cousin at his first appearance on the West Coast in more than a year. Arch improvisers on the bill include Tom Nunn (of alien-sounding homemade instruments fame), Tim Perkis (electronics guru), Gino Robair (extreme percussionist), Fred Frith (six-string deconstructionist), and Gebbia's People in Motion bandmates Damon Smith (bass) and Garth Powell (drums). It's telling that the saxophonist's collaborators for this performance hail from the sound-craftier side of the stream. Given the Sicilian's dual emphasis on melodic fundamentals and post-melody extrapolation, combined with the Californians' lust for lyricism from the least likely sources, this could be the most dynamic improv summit of the season.