The second volume of collaborative works by Italy's esteemed E.S.P. Trio (Roberto Cipelli, Attilio Zanchi, and Gianni Cazzola) and the phenomenal new music string quartet the Modern Ensemble (Riccardo Parrucci, Gloria Merani, Alessandro Franconi, Filippo Burchietti) is a more complex, and definitely more rewarding, effort than their recording debut. Essentially a short series of homage sketches by guitarist Benoit Schlosberg for Debussy and Egberto Gismonti interspersed with three large suites (one each for Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astor Piazzolla composed mainly by Zanchi with Cipelli and a few Monk tunes in a third suite for the pianist composer), this disc has the feeling of an evening-long program in the concert sense of the word. The opening suite for Jobim is a series of pastoral meditations of tone and texture with evocations of the tropical landscape of Brazil interspersed with Jobim's ideas of orchestral arrangement -- strings out front, every sound rounded off, long obbligato cellos and violins over subtle yet fluent pianism. The samba and bossa inflections are almost an afterthought as the large group tries with great success to offer the spirit of Jobim's music rather than its letter. "Four for Monk" is less successful in that no matter how one cuts it, string sections and the inherent funkiness of Monk's music don't jibe. The stilted rigidity of the clipped viola and cello lines offers little illumination on the composer, and even Cipelli's wondrous piano playing can't resolve the tension. Finally, on the six "Movements for Piazzolla," the Argentinean tango master's personal quirks are taken into deft consideration by the E.S.P. Trio and handed over to the Modern Ensemble for color and subtle elucidation on harmonic themes. The trio handles the syncopation and the drama in the music wonderfully, and Zanchi has captured that curious dark fire inherent in every note of Piazzolla's music, articulating it in a poignant, very Italian manner without watering it down. In all, this is a very fine recording, one that encapsulates the best in jazz and classical partnerships without once resorting to the schmaltzy romanticism that usually plagues these outings.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek