Roberto Ottaviano

Above Us

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This 1990 date by soprano saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano's fine quartet is one of the highlights of Italian jazz from the era. Featuring pianist Stefano Battaglia, drummer Ettore Fioravanti, and bassist Piero Leveratto (who also plays banjo), the seven tracks here reveal the deep lyrical intricacies of the Italian vision of jazz. With all compositions being written within the band, there is already a seamless dynamic at work in the proceedings that takes into account strengths and weaknesses. Ottaviano was influenced more by Steve Lacy's technique on the soprano than John Coltrane's; his nuancing of phrase and interval are especially notable on "Simple Bonheur," where he moves through a series of complex pitches with a seamless ease, winding his lines through Battaglia's nearly pointillistic melodic construction. The complex harmonics at the heart of "Pamphlet," which begin somewhere in the blues, lilt over to pastoral modalism and then fly off into a free swinging post-post-bop -- with a killer bass solo by Leveratto. The album ends with "Silhouette," which showcases the staggered harmonic inventions of Battaglia. His Lennie Tristano-ish lines intersect with the rhythm section in flatted fifths and augmented sevenths before rushing off to the top of the register to engage the blues with Ottaviano with a shimmering ostinato. Yeah, now this is jazz!

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