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ROBERTO MAGRIS EUROPLANE

Il Bello del Jazz

Soul Note 121395-2 [61:24]

 



No Sadness (Magri) [5:50] *
Stray Form (Geller) [4:36]
Some Other Spring (Kitchings/Herzog) [5:16]
Key Largo (Carter) [4:38]
A New Town Is A Blue Town (Adler/Ross) [7:08]
Here I’ll Stay (Weill/Lerner) [5:33]
Ah Moore (Cohn) [5:03]
Il Bello del Jazz (Magris) [5:14] *
Pretty Woman (Sondheim) [6:04]
Parker’s Pen (Magris) [5:07] *
Deception (Geller) [6:48] *
Herb Geller (alto sax)
Roberto Magris (piano)
Darko Jurkovic (guitar) *
Rudi Engel (bass)
Gabriele Centis (drums)
rec. 28, 30 August, 2003, Urban Recording Studios, Trieste

The excellent Italian pianist Roberto Magris has been leading his group Europlane, with a number of changes of personnel, for some time now. The present incarnation includes another Italian in drummer Gabriele Centis (from Trieste, like Magris), the Croatian guitarist Darko Jurkovic and the German bassist Rudi Engel. Here they are joined by American alto saxophonist Herb Geller. The result is a highly enjoyable album in the mainstream-modern idiom.

Geller – born in 1928 – might reasonably be described as a veteran. His rich musical experience included early work with Joe Venuti, Lucky Millinder and Claude Thornhill, touring with Benny Goodman and Louie Bellson. He has recorded with many jazz greats - Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Red Mitchell, Barney Kessel, Kenny Dorham, Hank Jones, Shelly Manne and Kenny Drew, to mention but a few. He moved to Europe in the 1960s, playing and recording with, amongst others, the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band, and bands led by Peter Herbolzheimer, Friedrich Gulda and George Gruntz. For a good number of years he was an important presence in the excellent Norddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra in Hamburg (where he still lives). Teamed here with much younger musicians – Magris, for example, was born in 1959 – he plays with energy, vitality, clarity and ravishing sensitivity. Geller’s playing owes at least as much to Benny Carter as it does to the Parker tradition; Johnny Hodges is also part of the particular mixture that is Geller’s own voice.

Given that Magris is a fine pianist – thoroughly schooled in all the post-bop piano idioms, but with surprising touches of Teddy Wilson from time to time – and that the rest of Europlane are also very accomplished (not least Jurkovic, who solos particularly well on ‘Parker’s Pen’), there’s no wonder that this is so enjoyable a CD.

The repertoire has been very well chosen. There’s an explicit nod to Carter in the choice of his ‘Key Largo’; Geller’s ‘Stray Form’ clearly alludes, in both title and style, to Billy Strayhorn, Ellington’s ‘Swea-Pea’. ‘Some Other Spring’ is an unhackneyed choice and Magris’ originals offer considerable stimulation for soloists. There is an attractive mixture of hard swinging and lyricism, of grace and boppish bite.

The interplay between Magris and Geller is outstanding throughout, not least in the duo version of ‘Some Other Spring’. All in all an excellent CD of mature, intelligent jazz, expressive and swinging, high level musicianship from musicians with something to say.

Glyn Pursglove



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