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Reviewers: Glyn Pursglove, Jonathan Woolf

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TOMMASO STARACE Harmony Less Quartet

Narrow Escape




Touch and Go

Medusa’s Charm

Fugue in E flat

Narrow Escape

Tinkle Tinkle

Grand Central

Like Someone In Love

Be Bop

Pass a Good Time

Tommaso Starace (alto saxophone): Dave O’Higgins (tenor saxophone): Davide Liberti (bass): Ruben Bellavia (drums)

Recorded January 2018, Music Studio, Via Caravaggio, Bruino

Italian alto player Tommaso Starace joins compatriots Davide Liberti and Ruben Bellavia and British tenor saxist Dave O’Higgins for a nine-track bop workout on Harmony Less Quartet. The title puns on the piano-free ensemble which stalwart modernists generally think began with Mulligan but which actually goes back to the 1920s.

Those angular bop figures – tight and taut – make their presence felt in the opener, Touch and Go where the splendid two-man rhythm anchors the saxes’ contrasting lines - but note too the saxes’ backing figures here. The insinuating seductive pull of Medusa’s Charm is intensified by some percussion wash and with strong contrasts between the sax players, not merely based on the different instruments but on tone colour as well. There’s contrapuntal airiness to the Fugue in E flat but there’s plenty of athleticism to enjoy as well whilst Narrow Escape, the longest track, features super-tight rhythm and fluidly fluent hard bop soloing from the two front-liners; plenty of little dialogues, and trades between them and then a deadpan fade ending.

Monk’s Trinkle Tinkle is no pastiche, not least without the tell-tale piano, though it encodes elements of his rhythmic tricksiness not least in the droll saxophone exchanges and in the sense of percussion colour and variety. After a straight-ahead version of Coltrane’sGrand Central, there’s a ballad in the shape of Like Someone in Love but it’s taken at a sprightly tempo and graced with youthful affirmative solos. There’s an excellent compact arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s Be Bop and the finale is Pass a Good Time, a catchy laid-back number with strong hints of Bop Gospel.

This is an album of strong themes and excellent interplay from a tight, cooking band.

Jonathan Woolf


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