“Italian Short Stories” – Tommaso Starace Quartet Plays the Photos of Gianni Berengo Gardin [TrackList follows] – EmArcy/Universal Italia
“Lo’Jo/ 310 Lunes” – Arr. by Renaud-Gabriel Pion [TrackList follows] – World Village

by | Oct 8, 2014 | Jazz CD Reviews

“Italian Short Stories” – Tommaso Starace Quartet Plays the Photos of Gianni Berengo Gardin [TrackList follows] – EmArcy/Universal Italia 0602537863877 [6/10/14] *****:

“Lo’ Jo/ 310 Lunes” – Arr. by Renaud-Gabriel Pion [TrackList follows] – World Village WVF 479102.03 (2 CDs) [10/4/14] (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ****1/2:

(Tommaso Starace, alto & sop. sax; Michele De Toro, piano; Attilo Zanchi, bass; Tommy Bradascio, drums; with guest: Paolo Fresu, trumpets & Flugelhorn)

(Lo’Jo – Disc 1: 11 musicians – main members: Denis Péan, Richard Bourreau, Kham Meslien, Baptiste Brondy, Yamina Nid el Mourid, plus wind orch. on some tracks, 12 players on Disc 2)

This is the third Starace CD we have reviewed (here’s the first), and the second to match the music to great images in the tradition of such classical pieces as Gunther Schuller’s Paul Klee Suite or Pictures at an Exhibition. This time the images are 14 black & white photos from photographer Ginanni B. Gardin, which are reproduced in the note booklet, mostly of people in festive situations, though sometimes the person in the photo is very small. My favorite was “The Amused Gypsy Girl,” peering into a passenger car interior totally filled with sheep. That track had a melody that reminded me of Dizzy’s “Salt Peanuts.” The cover for the album is a shot of the pigeons flying around St. Marks’ Square in Venice, for the Adagio from Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major. Starace’s musical settings are perhaps even more varied than the images. The opening photo has a wind-up gramophone in it, so Starace’s “Recollection” starts with a bit of a scratchy old 78 and a male singer from a forgotten music hall.

An essay by Robert Jutti in the notes is titled “The Wonder of Seeing and Listening” and he speaks of how the saxophonist has researched the “inner chords” deep in these images and supports the images with evocative compositions. He obviously has a deep love of fine photography that is not limited to must observing and admiring it. The previous image-based album used photos by an American-based Magnum photographer, but this time Starace decided to recount something of his Italian past, using these 14 photos which were taken in different parts of Italy.

More of the selections this time were composed by Starace, with improvisation taking a lesser role than in the previous album. The idea was to lead the listener on a journey into each of the photos. At the same time he was expressing a bit of homesickness and memories of his childhoon in Italy (he has been in London for 20 years).  One of the pieces is titled “Back to My Roots.” Most of the photos are not as serious as the earlier effort, and I therefore liked it better. Ravel gets another bow in the Starace composition “Ravel’s Waltz,” which goes with another photo shot in Venice, of an embracing couple in a long passageway. It would have been interesting to also have photographer Gardin’s titles for his photos in addition to the titles of the musical selections.

TrackList:  Recollection; The Bubble Vendor; Motion In Stillness; Ravel’s Waltz; Let the Magic Begin; Olivetti’s Touch; “Jamme!”; Interius Tranquilitas; Nothing Must Change; The Amused Gypsy Girl; Sensually Deranged; Adagio Assai From Piano Concerto In G Major; Back To My Roots; Echos Of Naples.


I don’t know much about this band but I like what they’re doing.  However, there are many videos of the band on YouTube—some with fascinating cinematography. And the so-called notes included are basically a large poster of an outdoor space, with no people at all. I did learn that the title 310 Lunes means 310 Moons, or the fact that the band has been in existence for 32 years, so to commemorate that they are releasing this double-CD package of a new album plus their very first album—The International Courabou— which has been unobtainable since it was released in 1990. The band was founded in 1982 in Angers, by Pean and Bourreau – who plays violin and kora. They have had a rotating cast of members and work with acrobats, street theater, mime, dancers and film, and live in a communal lifestyle. Yamina Nid el Mourid and her sister brought a North African influence into the music. Yamina is a singer and saxist. They have performed in Mali and with the group Tinariwen. They are now as much a part of the world music community as of jazz.

This is one double album where the second CD can be completely ignored, as far as I’m concerned. It hardly sounds like the same band – a mix of pretty awful stuff that I’ll never listen to again. The new one, however, which according to the notes has been arranged “in the spirit of modern chamber music,” is a winner.  These are new instrumental-only versions of some of the band’s past popular tunes, many of which originally had French vocals. They may not have the swing of an American jazz band, but there is a most interesting mix of North African, classical and brass folk bands. The only name amongst the performers whom I recognized was trombonist Roswell Rudd, who has also played and recorded with musicians in Mali as well as with avant-gardist Archie Shepp.


Disc No. 1 =
Au bar des Lilas 4:18 
Adorate child 6:28 
Quelqu’un d’elle 3:56 
The International Courabou 5:27 
Tajaban 4:25 
Lo “Siempre” Jo 4:44 
Kalo Moon 4:13 
Maralinga 5:27 
Barbarie 4:32 
Komet (Bonus Track) 4:09 
Ce soir-là (Bonus Track) 2:44 
Disc No. 2 =
Mo-Jo’s 3:32 
Mandeed Soul 4:50 
Kulu Kulu 4:20 
A tribute to black 8:33 
Mira 4:03 
Nobby 6:08 
Soraya 4:42 
Do Gory Nogami 4:46

—John Henry

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