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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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TOMMASO STARACE
QUARTET

Italian Short Stories

UNIVERSAL CLASSICS
AND JAZZ 0602537863877

 

 

Recollection

The Bubble Vendor

Motion In Stillness

Ravel's Waltz

Let the Magic Begin

Olivetti's Touch

"Jamme!"

Interius Tranquilitas

Nothing Must Change

The Amused Gypsy Girl

Sensually Deranged

Adagio Assai From Piano Concerto In G Major

Back To My Roots

Echos Of Naples.

Tommaso Starace (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone); Michele Di Toro (piano); Attilio Zanchi (bass); Tommy Bradascio (drums); Paolo Fresu (trumpet, flugelhorn on tracks 5, 7, 12, 13)

Recorded November 2012 and January 2014, Ronco Biellese, Biella, Italy

UNIVERSAL CLASSICS AND JAZZ 0602537863877 [72:30]

I enjoyed this album hugely. Tenor player Tommaso Starace runs a British quartet and also one from his native country, Italy. It’s the latter group with whom he has cut this album, the second of his ‘Photographic Jazz’ projects, one that focuses on 14 photos on Italian themes taken (in black and white) by Gianni Berengo Gardin. Admirers of Starace will remember that he recorded an album back in 2005 with his British group on the theme of photographs produced by the Magnum artist Elliott Erwitt. Each of the 14 Italian photographs is beautifully reproduced in the booklet of this latest release, attractively captioned and precisely dated. Cities such as Palermo, Milan, Naples and Venice are included though the focus is not on matters of topography or architecture, as such; each photograph stimulates in its own particular way ideas and melodies that bring to life the photographic images.

Recollection exemplifies the procedure. It opens with the sound of an old American popular song on a 78 (unidentified) before Starace’s elegant flowing terpsichorean soprano is unleashed and Michele Di Toro’s fluid piano lines follow. Pictorial lyricism is to the fore more than pure improvisation per se. The result is beautiful realisation of the photographic image, of a couple dancing on sand dunes to music from a portable wind-up gramophone. A capricious fast-moving circling theme proves part of Motion in Stillness, in which a Milanese priest stands smiling at the camera whilst to his left, and slightly behind, children are a blur as they whiz round on a carousel. Venice, 1959, is represented by a sculptural shot of a kissing couple framed in the middle of a long and elegant arcade. Guest artist trumpeter and flugelhorn player Paolo Fresu joins Let The Magic Begin, a funfair picture, and it’s a great swinging tune. Quirky Ragtime elements infuse the ingenious Olivetti’s Touch, in which children wear animal masks, before the trumpeter returns for the bop fiesta that is ‘Jamme!’, where Starace’s coarser tone on alto is especially applicable. Appropriately there is a religious quality to Interius Tranquillitas where the serenity is accompanied by fine piano and bass solos. The Amused Gypsy Girl is a photograph that shows sheep exploring the inside of a car to the amusement of a little girl watching from beyond. The theme touches on that classic Salt Peanuts and there are some saucy piano breaks to amplify the droll absurdity of the scene. For a photograph of Venice in 1960 – a running woman in black, and a flock of pigeons, Starace has taken the slow movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto, and added a soprano line to follow. Ambient chatter infiltrates the street scene Echoes of Naples, which is graced by an evocative soprano solo and some tight supportive rhythm.

As I said, this is an enormously enjoyable, lyric-descriptive album, beautifully played and equally beautifully recorded. It isn’t at all pretentious, as some of these projects can be, and relates music and image closely together in a way that is witty, but above all apt. Terrific.

Jonathan Woolf



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