Mämût is trumpet player and composer Paolo Fresu's first major statement as a bandleader. Though he has been awarded many honors, including Musician of the Year by the Italian Critics' poll in 1990, it wasn't until 1985 when the first of these works was recorded that Fresu's ensemble and his compositional style had reached its chromatic sophistication and intervallic elegance. The odd thing is, the music found on Mämût was recorded in 1985 and 1986 with music composed for two theater productions. The most remarkable thing about this album is how all of it flows as if from a single source, including the glorious cover of Monk's "'Round About Midnight," which occurs at the end of the disc. The 12 originals are a mix of pastoral swinging lyricism, post-bop modal inventions, and bluesed-out lyricism. The two takes each of "Yatra" and "March" are evidence of just how deep Fresu's ability to transfer emotion is without syrup or sentimentality. Part of this is due to the fact that he writes specifically for his wondrous sextet, which includes the great saxophonist Trino Tracanna, pianist Roberto Cipelli, bassist Attilio Zanchi, and drummer Ettore Fioravanti with percussionist Mimmo Cafiero. These men are all wise in the manner of understatement and are all intimately familiar with the curiously spare dynamics of Fresu's compositional methods. It can be argued on the basis of this lush, haunting record alone that without this band, Fresu's music would have an entirely different timbre. No matter, it's this sextet who performs the 13 tunes here and this band who expresses what to everyone, with the exception of Fresu, would be inexpressible. This is Italian jazz at its very best.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek