Jazz CD Reviews

Tommaso Starace – Simply “Marvellous!” (Celebrating the Music of Michel Petrucciani) – Emarcy

A faboulously-recorded musical triumph!

Published on August 22, 2012

Tommaso Starace – Simply “Marvellous!”  (Celebrating the Music of Michel Petrucciani) – Emarcy

Tommaso Starace – Simply “Marvellous!”  (Celebrating the Music of Michel Petrucciani) – Emarcy Universal Italia  060253700192, 68:00  [5/8/12] *****:  

(Tomasso Starace, alto and soprano saxophone; Michele Di Toro, piano; Attilio Zanchi, bass; Tommy Bradascio, drums.  Special guests:  Roger Beaujolais, vibraphone; Farbrizio Bosso, trumpet & flugelhorn)

This inspired album is my favorite jazz disc of 2012.   It is the second CD by Tommaso Starace’s Italian Quartet (he’s released three others using UK players since relocating there).  Being a working band, the foursome had found themselves including more compositions by Michel Petrucciani in their program.  So they decided to dedicate a session to the “happy side” of the late pianist’s personality and songs.  As is well known, Petrucciani had brittle bone disease and  accompanying extremely small stature.  He was often difficult, engaging in excessive behavior.  But he was also determined to live life to the fullest – which his side which this recording celebrates.  Starace feels the nine Petrucciani songs were already well-arranged and didn’t need much embellishing with the sax taking the melodies in the original keys.

Track one kicks thing off in a buoyant fashion.  Starace turns in a very fine alto work, while guest vibist Beaujolais contributes mightily.  Di Toro offers a startling unaccompanied piano solo before bass and drums kick back in before the group ending.  A great start!

The mellow “Guadeloupe” begins with a very well-captured brief drum part before introducing Bosso with sax and horn exchanges.  Horn, sax and piano solos are first rate on this one.  It’s the basic quartet for “Simply Bop” with a beautifully conceived lengthy sax solo and piano solo with “so correct” drum support.  This is one fun Petrucciani composition.

Starace plays soprano on track four for a nice change.  It also includes the album’s first bass solo and some nice little drum rolls at the end.  Not only do the vibes and piano compliment each other extremely well on this number, but the recording quality is perfect.  This might be time to give a shout out to the engineering and production team here.  All instruments are impeccably captured throughout, making this a state-of-the-art red book sonic release.

The mid-tempo “September Second” also includes the vibes/piano combo with yet another fine alto solo.  “Even Mice Dance” was Petrucciani’s Chopin-inspired composition.  Di Toro plays “Prelude No.20” alone and then at about 2:56 alto sax and drums kick in.  This is another quartet performance featuring a bass solo and is the only piece even approaching a somber mood. Storace swings to soprano again for track seven.  This features very impressive work by Di Toro who takes over the driving bass line duties on piano on their duet.  This man is talented!

“My Bebop Tune” is the fastest track, adding trumpeter Bosso.  After unison playing, he lets loose with his best solo followed by an alto scorcher.  Bassist Zanchi drives it along before slowing down to a walk for the start of the piano solo before wickedly picking up the pace again.  I figured this would probably include the first drum solo and a fine one is offered.  This track is a total highlight and true showcase.

“Marvellous” was written by Starace.  It is a fine tribute in a similar style to Pettrucianni.  This again is the alto led quartet which is so, so solid.  The breezy “Cantabile” closes things out.  Again, the vibes and piano complimenting each other sound gorgeous.  Drummer Bradascio impressively supports all soloing, and it feels like one is luxuriating on a beach sipping a favorite beverage before things just slowly and dreamily fade out.

This fabulously-recorded disc really should end up in the general jazz top ten for 2012.  It is already approaching September and it is firmly established as my current favorite.  The selection of a saxophone-led tribute to such a great master is indeed inspired.  The addition of horn and vibes to the quartet gives the session unquestioned depth and variety.  A complete triumph!

TrackList:  Looking Up; Guadeloupe; Simply Bop; Rachid; September Second; Even Mice Dance; Little Peace In C For You; My Bebop Tune; Marvellous; Cantabile

—Birney K. Brown

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