Paolo Fresu

Inner Voices

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AllMusic Review by

Trumpeter Paolo Fresu is one of the most innovative and enduring forces in Italian jazz. As for why the referent for Europe at large is not included in the above statement, it is simply because, from Mario Schiano to Fresu to Stefano Battaglia to Tino Tracanna and countless others, the Italians have forged their own lyrical, swinging identity, no matter what the subgenre is. On this date, Fresu surrounds himself with a sextet of the country's finest -- including Tracanna on tenor and soprano -- and American soprano saxophonist and flutist David Liebman on a program of Fresu originals, pieces by two other of his countrymen, and Thelonious Monk's "Reflections." (Would it be an Italian jazz date if there weren't a Monk tune in the set?) The three-horn front line suits Fresu well as a leader. As a trumpeter, his tone is bright, very much in the bell, and extremely lyrical. Using Tracanna and Liebman, on tenor and soprano respectively, tonally places the trumpet firmly in the middle. Even when the other instrument is Liebman's flute and Tracanna moves over to soprano, it places the trumpet in the middle of the lower tonal end; the trumpet therefore doesn't seem to be the root instrument, but rather the one that mediates colors and voicings, as on Attilio Zanchi's "Early Spring." Elsewhere, on the two-part suite "Pocket Day/Morgana," the rhythm section plays everything in a stretched-out blues cadence, allowing all three horns to speak the opening harmonic lines in unison before creating an angular, off-minor high-end swing tune populated by bop figures in the modulations between chords and simultaneous solos, slipping in a kind of gospel motif before taking it out with deep bop blues. The set ends with Fresu's most stunning composition, "Blues for You," a supremely lyrical study in chromatics and elongated ostinato phrasing. His solo is one of the most elegant and silky he's ever played, without remaining in any of the tune's pockets for very long. This is pretty much a stunner. The few ordinary moments on this record would be highlights anywhere else. Fresu does it again.

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