As should be clear from previous posts, there is a coterie of Italian jazz musicians that not only lead their own bands but also work collectively together in a variety of places and settings. Pieranunzi, Basso, and Sellani are three of the grand masters, and each not only has played music with many others but each has also mentored the next generation.
This post brings to the fore one of the younger, but no less talented, pianists, Danilo Rea, whose name has already come up in conjunction with the CDs of the masters. Rea is a comparative youngster, born in Vincenza in 1957, educated at the Santa Cecilia Music Conservatory in Rome, debuting on record for the first time in 1975 with the Rome Trio of Roberto Gatto and Enzo Pietropaoli (two names for a later post)and debuting as a leader on record only in 2003. Since then, AllMusic lists him as leader on about a dozen CDs, as well as a supporting member of countless others. He is also a member of a wonderfully inventive trio, Doctors 3, which I will include in this post as well.
Rea is a player who is capable of performing across the broadest of musical categories, from classical music to jazz and pop music. As a young disciple of the masters and child of the 60s and 70s, Rea's influences extend across a wider range of music than Sellani and even Pieranunzi, although the latter certainly shows the same sparks of modernism and boldness at times that characterizes Rea's work. Rea is certainly more into the modern songbook, but still retains the same attention to melody and the harmonic sensibilities of his masters, never straying too far out of the box. His discography highlights the variety in his work, both in terms of his musical breadth as well as the settings -- solos, duos, trios, and a quintet are all a part of the collection I have of his music. These performances are done both in studio and live from the Umbria Jazz Festival, where Rea has bcome one of the featured performers in each format and with Doctors 3.
His CDs as leader demonstrate that Rea has a number of personalities that he brings to the music.
"Improvvisi" (Duck Record 2002) is a duo recording with drummer Robert Gatto, a major name in Italy as well. My Italian is not so good, but the liner notes basically say that in the past year the two friends decided upon a collaboration, and to do an ambitious program -- eliminating any pre-ordained playlist and in fact no songs at all unless they came to them spontaneously. They would create from the air the melodies, rhythms, and harmonies. They would be guided by their backgrounds, culture, and communal language. They would let the sounds guide them, and when they were done, they hoped to have a recording worth hearing. And they succeeded and the results speak for themselves, 13 pieces, 11 originals and two others, of varying tempos -- with a common bond of two players who clearly are in touch with each other. Jazz and classical music merges here in the originals, one of which is dedicated to Debussy, and in a lovely rendition of the Moldau by Smetana. Brilliant showmanship.
"Romantica" (Venus Records 2004) is a piano trio, with Ares Tavolazzi on bass and Gatto again on drums. My Italian might be bad, but I cannot read Japanese at all, so the liner notes are useless. But the music is magnifico -- here we have jazz interpretations of what I believe are Italian favorites, of whom I only recognize Ennio Morricone's name. What I do know is that the melodies are all as romantic as advertised in the title, Rea brings to each his full bag of expressive chords, runs, and range of dynamics. Gatto keeps the tempo, adds color, and introduces several of the tunes with the snare and cymbals, that then underlie the melodies. On "Munastero 'E Santa Clara" plays a bongo-like rhythm that adds sparkle to the tune, the second on the disc, and on Tu Si' Na Cosa Grande he maintains a latin beat for Rea's lilting tune. These sound like the "Great Italian Songbook" as sung by Sergio Franchi, Mario Lanza, and others.