When saxophonist and composer Pietro Tonolo took on this project in 1996, he was still very young despite the fact that he had built up a formidable body of his own recordings and appearances on session dates. Disguise is a collection of pieces all based on pieces by classical composers, from Rachmaninov to Satie to Tchiakovsky to Handel to Schöenberg, and re-envisioned and reharmonized by Tonolo in the jazz idiom via his own or Riccardo Zenga's compositions. The band he assembled for this task is formidable: In addition to himself and Zenga on piano, Gianluigi Trovesi plays alto, piccolo, and bass clarinet; Roberto Rossi is here on trombone; Giampaolo Casati plays cornet and trumpet; Al Kramer shares the drum chair with Luigi Bonafede; and holding it all together on the bass is no less than the master Pietro Ciancaglini. Tonolo states his intentions in the opener, "Tableaux," by using a chromatic sense of them and weaving together a modern, post-bop cadence to meld handle and Rachmaninov and even Handel -- all themes that will be revisited later in the album. Tonolo goes a step further into the modern canon later on his heartbreakingly beautiful read of a Nino Rota theme on "Satyricon," where piccolo and soprano sax move into elegant counterpoint to present both sides of Rota's theme against a Debussian ("Jeux") backdrop and a Bill Evans-ish pianism. Elsewhere, on "Gnosswing" Tonolo goes after Satie is a bluesy nocturnal swing, with the horns all charted to play in standard harmony as the piano moves along a different chromatic line and reinvent Satie's melody as a kind of hip nursery rhyme. Ultimately, every composer is both turned inside out and paid fitting jazz homage to in a set that surprises at every single turn and never overreaches its own bounds, keeping everything inside the realm of taste and far from the banalities of irreverence or kitsch. This is a jazz album, make no mistake, but it is a jazz album with so many new colors, dynamics, and tones, it will sound like something brand new -- which is what jazz is supposed to do, after all.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek