Saturday, April 28, 2012

Some More Italians

By Claudio Botelho
I can’t help but talking about Italians again. Through the good services of a good friend (veeery gooood services, to say it better…), I came across three new albums I will talk here about. It seems to me the air which is flowing through the Italian jazz scene is fresher, these days. The musicians from that country seem to have complete control on this musical language, as much as any other people and this includes the Americans.
As much as many say the piano trio format is exhausted and nothing more new can come any more, the reality is showing us otherwise. But, before going further, I think we must determine what is “new”. What is “new”, after all? I don’t know how can it be described in musical language, but, for me, new is something that can call attention to itself; something different from the mainstream, which, by its nature, force us to pay attention to it.
The new can be a good thing, but can be just “different” and this condition of being so does not, indeed, justifies its existence, as, at the end, it doesn’t enrich the human experience in any way and its inevitable future will be oblivion. I’m not here to despise the searchers of new sounds; new ways of musical expression in any way, as I understand the human progress has also relied upon the dreams and works of these visionaries, but, conversely, one cannot grant as inferior the works of someone who, through more commonplace ways, decides to express himself.
What advantage has the music of any contemporary composer/musician as compared to the music of, say, Bach, Beethoven or Chopin? The “Goldberg Variations” of fame was, recently, recorded by American pianist Dan Tepfner, in an album of himself alone. I must say that, some hundreds of years after it was composed, listening to this new version, I was not able to find anything new, in that sense of establishing any real contrast with the original work as done by its author. It’s just a jazzy version of the work of Bach as was, in my opinion, the rendition of the celebrated Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, done in the second half of last century. And, please, don’t misunderstand me: Tepfner is a master; he is one of the best American jazz pianists of the new breed and I’m not saying his work on Bach music deserves obscurity; far from it: it’s one of best releases of piano jazz of late and it has received its due recognition by critics.
It seems to me, this composition, through minor continuous changes, is pure jazz. If you try to put apart its main theme, you’ll find it’s a short one which goes with a nonstop sequence of mini arrangements which, as such, don´t ever go far from the main idea. Surely it was on purpose, as it should fulfill a task given by the king which suffered from insomnia. It had to have a boring atmosphere and, so, should help the king to sleep. Can a work of a genius be boring? Of course, if so he wants it to be. And, to me, it’s a boring song, although a work of greatest art…
But I’m not intending to write about Bach; I want to talk about some new Italians musicians and give you some suggestions I think you’ll certainly approve.

1- Take, for instance, an album called URBAN FABULA, from a trio led by pianist Serby Borgio which, along with bassist Alberto Fidone and drummer Peppe Tringali, recorded a ten-song album, mixing works of their own with some American standards. And these standards are “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Round Midnight”. These two songs has been an ever present part of the jazz repertory for many years now and have been explored inside out by an incommensurable number of musicians time and time again. Many wouldn’t dare to record it any more, afraid of having nothing new to bring, but not these kids: They not only included them on their first recorded album, but did their work in a most entertaining way. Nobody would be sore listening to these songs for the nth time here, I assure you. Here, and not only through these songs, these young musicians have brought novelties to the jazz scene; out of pure inspiration, although using the very same old language used by everyone. Fresh air, really! It’s a proof that there’s much to be done and it will ever be, provided one has the RIGHT means to do so!

2- Get, if you can, an album by drummer Lorenzo Tucci called “Tranety”(reviewed elsewhere, in these pages, by Marco Lorenzo Faustini). Inspired from compositions by or associated with the late great saxophone player John Coltrane (AGAIN, surely more than “abused” songs…), Trucci and his companions Claudio Filippini on piano and Luca Bulgarelli on bass did a job of great impact and his drumming, on the forefront (as opposed to many works which seem to leave the percussion out of the studio…), sets the mood of every song. His iron fisted blasts are perfectly joined by the excellent Filippini, who, today, is one of the topmost piano players in Italy and these, along with Bulgarelli, present Coltrane’s repertory in a fashion which may border the fierce, sometimes and, in the least, vibrant. Excellent interplay! Try it!

3- You may also get an album named “Serenity” by another great Italian pianist; someone named Pierro Frassi. Along with cohorts Filippo Pedol, on bass and Andrea Melani on drums (CD already mentioned in these pages) and joined by the venerable alto sax player Lee Konitz (now in his eighties), they indulge on music by famous American jazz composers, such as Bill Evans, Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Horace Silver, joined by some other compositions from the classic American pop songbook , including a music from Burt Bacharach (“A House is not a Home”). Mr. Konitz plays on three songs, including Jones’ “A Child is Born”. Contrasting to the reported CD above, the mood here is more controlled, but no less excellent. If, in the former album, you find organicity and vigor, here you’ll find a very sensitive work of seasoned artists, full of that someway more reticent emotion which is the hallmark of those with more time on the road. Excellent arrangements throughout. Great integration and very good taste spice the whole work!
To round off for now, let me quote the words of Argentinean sax player Javier Girotto who, writing in the booklet of “Urban Fabula”, stated:
“I Thought also that a group composed of piano, bass and drum would have very little to offer. Instead, listening to this trio, I totally changed my mind. There is something yet to be discovered and new routes to be followed, like those taken by Urban Fabula…”

Mr. Girotto has changed his mind. How about you?

Thank you very much, Mr. Marcílio…

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