After his breakthrough with Terry, Petrucciani began playing and recording in France with Aldo Romano, but eventually broke away to pursue his dreams in California. While there, he visited the retired saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who truly came out of retirement after hearing Petrucciani play. “I was here not planning to play again. You triggered me. I heard this beauty in you and I said, 'well I have to take you 'round the world cause there’s something so beautiful, it was like providence calling.” They began an association that lasted almost a decade, and Petrucciani and Lloyd's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was made into an album. In 1982 they won the 1982 Prix d’Excellence.
Michel Petrucciani died just after his 36th birthday from a pulmonary infection in 1998. He left behind a wonderfully diverse set of recordings, on Owl and Dreyfus records for the most part, consisting of solo concerts, trios, and other combinations.
Why dedicate an album to Petrucciani, especially one led by a sax player? Starace in the liner notes says that after programming a few of Michel's songs into his program, the band increasingly found that the energy and passion of Petrucciani's originals inspired the group to greater levels of play. So this is a celebration of his life, his loves, and his incredible positivity in spite of his disabilities. As Petruciani said, "My philosophy is to have a really good time."
Nine of the ten songs are Petrucciani compositions, with the other a Starace original "Marvellous." Starace, an alto and soprano sax player, generally works in Europe and performs here with his Italian Quartet: Michele di Toro, piano, Attilio Zanchi, bass and Tommy Bradascio, drums. Not only are they a solid working group, but two special guests join them at times and raise the music to even greater heights: Roger Beaujolais on the vibes and Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet and flugelhorn.
The CD lives up to its billing -- the wonderfully lyrical tunes of Petrucciani are played sympathetically, with wonderfully diverse expression and feelings, and a pure mood of happiness. They are pretty much straght-forward interpretations that hew closely to the objectives of their composer -- rich melody lines, pretty harmonies, and virtuosity from each of the players.
Some of the highlights follow, although every song could be a highlight --- it is that good. The piano/soprano duet on Little Peace in C for You is outstanding, and when the soprano sits out the piano solo is pure heaven; the entire song has a happy, bubbly feel that has to bring a smile to any listener. My Bebop Tune follows with a brisk romp that showcases Bosso on trumpet. After a brisk unison opening with the sax and trumpet and upbeat piano solo, Bosso plays a burning solo right out of the fifties. Starace picks it up and burns himself on the alto, and then the piano and bass engage in a short romp. Everyone demonstrataes in this single song the chops that are evident throughout. On Guadeloupe, a latin tinged melody, Bosso and Starace are showcased once more; and Beaujolais provides depth and color to "September Second" and has a great solo on the closing "Cantibile." Watch for more by Di Toro in particular, he is that good here. Bosso has already established a reputation in Eurpose both as a leader and sideman, and has a number of fine discs on European and Japanese labels.
Please search it out, and while you are at it, grab some Petrucciani as well if you don't have any. It will bring a smile to your face!