Sunday, July 22, 2012
Another Italian Maestro: Renato Sellani
Sellani has few recordings under his name until the late 1990s, when he began his current relationship with the Italian label Philology, for which he has now recorded in excess of 40 albums in a range of settings from solo to small ensembles, most often with the leading players of Italian jazz. Still, he is hardly a household name in the United States, which according to Thomas Conrad of All About Jazz is almost tragic: "The fact that Sellani is one of the most complete, most romantically seductive interpreters of standards in all of jazz is criminally underappreciated outside Italy."
Sellani has been at it for over 60 years and is a master of the American songbook, along with Italian classics, his own compositions, and a classical repetoire including Chopin and Puccini among others. His creativity is outstanding, his playing luminous. He plays with the grace and delicacy of a master, and his seemingly casual attitude at play is more the product of years of experience than of his actual feeling toward the music. Raised in the period of the big bands and swing, he is definitely grounded in melody, and produces wonderfully lush and loving interpretations of them along with passionate embellishments and improvisations. He has been compared to Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, two of the United States' most respected and tasteful pianists of all-time.
As noted earlier, Sellani has recorded prolifically for Philology during the past dozen or so years, seemingly catching up for all those years before. I have six discs of Sellani as leader that are all worthy of listening to and, incredibly, they were recorded between March 2007 and December, yet each is a jewel. I also have a number of discs on which he plays a support role, whcih cover his earlier period, including the Gianni Basso recordings I wrote about yesterday, as well as the Chet Baker mentioned earlier. These will be described when I discuss other Italian leaders. Here then are the seven discs in order of recording date.
In September 2007, Sellani came right back, this time on Philology, with "Blues for Chet" (Philology 2008), a piano and bass duo with his longtime bassist Massimo Moriconi. With the two playing so closely together and celary listening to each other intently, they role out a series of impeccible melodies, set in 8 sections of paired songs. so they play "Blues for Chet" and "Stella by Starlight" to open, then "My Funny Valentine" with "But Not for Me" and so on tp the end. Delightful, delicious, de-lovely music throughout, with the same attention to melody with just the simplest of frosting added which absolutely will engate you. First class again.