Thursday, July 19, 2012

Get to Know the Italians

When I began this blog one of my objectives was to introduce players who somehow have stayed below the radar. Some might be new players to the scene, others might be on small labels with low promotional budgets, and some may perform infrequently or in a limited area. Some may just get overlooked despite a long record of accomplishment, a la Jessica Williams who I wrote about yesterday. And many are foreign players who just do not seem to get the amount of press given to Americans unless they are on a  major label (ECM, CamJazz, ACT seem to lead in that category), and even then they are generally less widely known because they appear less frequently in the U.S. or are reviewed less frequently in "Downbeat" or "Jazz Times" than their U.S. counterparts.

I previously posted on jazz players from the U.K., and have also written individual reviews of a great many recordings from the U.K. Beginning with this post, I intend to do the same for the Italians, who are extremely well represnted in my collection. I love all things Italian. The food is delicious, the art magnificent, the wine glorious, the country beautiful, and the language resonant. Words like "Montepulciano" and "Cinque Terre" roll off the tongue, "Chianti" brings images of Tuscany, "Barbera d'Asti" of the Piedmont, and all of it brings images of  platters of fine foods. Prosciutto and melone, cannoli,  chianti, gnocchi...I could go on for a while like this.
Italy for me is a lyrical place of great beauty, and the music of its leading jazz players follows suit. I have a substantial collection of Italian jazz, and it is almost exclusively full of richly melodic, lyrical, and captivating recordings. The Italian musical heritage of Puccini, Verdi, Rossini et al is one of glorious melodies and opera, and I believe the Italian ear was trained for that same type of music in its jazz heritage, amplified by the music brought by  touring Americans of the 40s and 50s like Chet Baker and others, and of ex-pats like Dexter Gordon and others. In the tones of Rava and Fresu I hear the echoes of Baker; in the rounded tones of Basso I hear the sounds of Gordon and Getz; and in the  pianism of Pieranunzi, Sellani, Rea and others I hear the lush harmonies of pianists like Evans or Tyner as well as of the other instrumentalists.

Today's players of course are expanding the pallette and bringing in more modern sounds, along with electronics, and the heritage of other musical traditions; but for me, the jazz music of Italy is captured by the older masters and their disciples, some of whom are the young lions on the scene carrying on the traditonal sounds and some of whom are expanding the boundaries of Italian jazz.

Over  the next several weeks or even months, I am going to spotlight the leaders who populate my collection of Italian jazz. To begin the effort I pulled from my shelves as many of my CDs as I could find. My collection is neither alphabetized nor in any other way highly organized (someday.....), and I expect that as of today I have forgotten somebody. If so, please send me a comment on who I may have missed in the list below.  

Without further ado, and organized by instrument, I will be commenting on the following players:

  • Enrico Pieranunzi (pictured on top right)
  • Franco D'Andrea
  • Renato Sellani (to the right)
  • Danilo Rea
  • Stefano Bollani
  • Roberto Tarenzi 
  • Antonio Farao
  • Franco Cerri 
  • Giovanni Mirabassi  
  • Salvatore Bonafede
  • Luigi Bonafede 
  • Roberto Magris
  • Giovanni Guidi
  • Stefano Battaglia
  • Gambarini, Roberta - You Are There CD Cover ArtDado Moroni
  • Rosario Giuliani
  • Massimo Urbani
  • Pietro Tonolo
  • Francesco Cafiso
  • Gianni Basso (above, left)
  • Stefano diBatista 
  • Roberto Gatto
  • Giovanni Tomasso
  • Enzo Pietropaoli
  • Enrico Rava
  • Paolo Fresu
  • Marco Tamburini
  • Fabrizio Bosso

  • Roberta Gambarini (right

  • Doctors Three
  • High Five

My first post, coming soon, with be about Enrico Pieranunzi who I consider the Dean of Italian pianists and, for that matter, of Italian jazz, along with other towering figures like Renato Sellani, Franco D'Andrea, and Gianni Basso.

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