Paolo Fresu

Ballads

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AllMusic Review by

While it's true that trumpeter and composer Paolo Fresu works in a variety of settings from trio to sextet, it is arguable that his quintets present him with the finest opportunities for creative expression. This date, a covers-only collection of ballads by Ellington and Strayhorn, Mingus, Monk, Johnny Mercer, etc., has all the hallmarks of a classic Fresu set. For starters, the band is amazing: Tino Tracanna on tenor, Roberto Cipelli on piano, Attilio Zanchi on bass, and Ettore Fioravanti on drums offer Fresu a wide palette for expressing the many shades and textures of the jazz ballad. Then, there's the material. Beginning a ballad program with the quietly gorgeous "When Sunny Gets Blue" is auspicious, especially when the opening measures feature a Fresu solo of such lyrical warmth and relaxed phrasing that the listener is nearly lulled into intoxication before Tracana adds some weight in his own Cannonball Adderley way. Fresu leads the quintet with a loose hand, and each member is allowed to explore the subtle nuances inherent in the material. Cipelli looks at each number and expresses it impressionistically, leaving the horns plenty of open space. In the front, Fresu touches deeply on the Miles Davis and early Chet Baker side of melodic invention, wrangling wonderfully muted timbral dimensions from such tunes as "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Darn That Dream," and Wayne Shorter's "Fall." Tracanna shines on Tom Harrell's "Sail Away" as well as "Monk's Mood" and "Star Crossed Lovers." Cipelli and the rhythm section play almost glissando throughout, adding a shimmering light-on-water effect. They don't resort to an easy listening approach to the ballad anywhere here and, in fact, use a listener's approach to the subtle harmonic inflections and ever-shifting dynamics throughout. This set presents the Italians -- and particularly Fresu -- at their lyrical, consonant best.

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