This Italian recording is — not surprisingly — at its best when Art Ensemble alumni Roscoe Mitchell and Famoudou Don Moye take command. The three Mitchell compositions stand out, especially the way he promotes the supple, inventive bassist Aldo Vigorito on arco to open both “A Distant Raindrop” and “For Favors” (the latter dedicated to another Art Ensemble member, Malachi Favors, who died a year before this recording). Although barely more than two minutes, “Up In There” is classic Mitchell in its use and silence for space and gentle shifts from pensive to whimsical in mood.
The other seven tracks are by alto saxophonist Marco Zurzolo, and while the titles connote heaviness (“Magma,” “Om,” and of course the name of the entire disc, Samsara, which is Hindu for birth, death and rebirth), they are actually useful in putting Mitchell and Moye in more light-hearted, toe-tapping contexts (check out Moye especially on “Om”). Trombonist Alessandro Tedesco rounds out the quintet, enabling the ensemble to emphasize bold horn fanfares and quicksilver dialogues, even as the rock-solid rhythm section remains prominent in the mix.