The Club Foot Orchestra, a San Francisco based ensemble made up of performers from various jazz, rock, and classical backgrounds, has a long history of interpreting film soundtracks (and scoring their own), so this tribute to the composer behind Fellini's great films comes as no surprise. Nino Rota has provided fertile ground for investigation by several composers; his work maintains a strong influence on Carla Bley and Willem Breuker and has been well-served by interpretations from, among others, the producer Hal Wilner (Amarcord Nino Rota) and Pino Minafra in his group, La Banda. Here, the emphasis is on unusual and tasty arrangements of Rota's pieces, most of them very familiar, rather than drastic deconstructions of same. The songs are either performed as set compositions or as vehicles for jazzy soloing, and despite the fact that a few of the musicians involved are strongly associated with the San Francisco avant-garde, the solo work is very accessible and exuberant. Notable among the fine individual instrumental contributions are those of trombonist Tom Yoder, cellist Matthew Brubeck, and accordionist Joshua Raoul Brody, each of whom demonstrate what musical richness can be found beneath the seemingly simple folky tunes and circus marches. Plays Nino Rota is an extremely enjoyable release and one that can be savored by Rota fans as well as the general jazz audience.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick