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Monday, July 21, 2014

CD Review: Tommaso Starace Quartet - Italian Short Stories.


Tommaso Starace (alt/sop); Michele Di Toro (pno); Attilio Zanchi (bs); Tommy Bradascio (dms) + Paolo Fresu (tpt/flg - 4 tracks).
(Review by Lance).
After writing yesterday in favour of American jazz, along comes this one from Italy that compares favourably with just about anything I've heard Stateside in recent years.
Subtitled "Plays the photos of Gianni Berengo Gardin", Starace's inspiration is the black and white photos of internationally renowned Italian photographer Gardin.
Those who heard Starace and Di Toro at the JNE promoted gig at The Chilli in May 2011 will know that quality is the name of the game here, even if it is totally different from that momentous evening.
The melodic content is high with each photo providing the spark for composition and improvisation by Starace. Indeed listening whilst viewing seems to bring the photos alive. The couple dancing to an old phonograph at the Lido of Venice in Recollection could be dancing in your living room. In The Bubble Vendor, the bubbles drift upwards helped by Starace's soprano which has an almost clarinet-like purity of sound with Di Toro assisting their flight.
Motion in Stillness depicts a priestly like figure clad in his robes of office next to a blurred image of maybe carousers or card-players sitting round a table. The motion comes again from the soprano, the stillness, the breaks in between.
Ravel's Waltz is pure romanticism. The alto sax perfectly capturing the moment two lovers kiss in the Piazza San Marco.
Let The Magic Begin brings the muted trumpet of Fresu into the musical picture adding a piquancy to the photo of some fairground entertainment. Olivetti's Touch is a picture of a clown and Di Toro gives out with the stride piano whilst Starace darts around slipping in an off-key note purely for effect - and it is effective!
Jamme! opens discordantly as befits the picture of two men and child on a motor bike in Naples. Fresu and Starace blow some bop phrases here.
The Amused Gypsy Girl has two sheep rubbing noses watched by the girl and depicted with an up tempo blast by the two horns.
These are just some of the fourteen shots that inspire the 4/5 musicians. Believe you me the whole album is such that the above rhetoric could be dispensed with and simply replaced by Ti amo!.
And this applies to Gianni Berengo Gardin as well as the musicians.
Lance.
PS: Listen to Fresu's flugel on Ravel's Adagio Assai from Piano Concerto in G Major (Cover photo).

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