Gianni d'Argenzio

Domestic Standards

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In America, this is truly a curious recording. In Italy it might be regarded as scandalous or a treasure, depending on which side you're on. Saxophonist Gianni D'Argenzio has thought through the notion of jazz standards quite carefully. Usually, they are popular songs, which have been subsumed by the jazzman's art. Whatever trace remains of the original is not necessarily on purpose. Most of the jazz standards in the world come from America, true? D'Argenzio has rethought this premise too, and has recorded an entire program of tunes by Italy's famous songwriters, all of whom happen to be crooners -- Gino Paoli, Lucio Battisti, Fabrizio De André, and Francesco De Gregori -- and reinvented them with all of the verve and deep emotional lyricism that is the trademark of Italian jazz. Perhaps the most interesting thing about his approach, though, is he has chosen a band that had been playing together only a year at the time of this recording, and that his interest was in maintaining the song-like essence of each tune. As a saxophonist, D'Argenzio is sadly under noticed. His tone on both the tenor and the soprano are rich, dimensionally sonorous and soulful. It sounds strange, but his phrasing on both instruments is akin to Art Pepper's on alto. His sidemen -- the brothers Aldo and Angelo Farias, who play guitars and bass, respectively, and drummer Umberto Guarino -- are naturals, and they fall in line with harmonic figures effortlessly and carry the simple melodies to their limits and extend them without attempting to override them or D'Argenzio's intentions. While none of these tunes would be recognizable to most Americanskis, and there are no weak moments in this modern jazz garden of song, the most notable tracks are "Lunga Storia D'Amoria" (Lounge Love Affair), "Domenica Bestiale" (Beastly Sunday), and"Senza Fina" (Endlessly). This is a wonder of fine emotive nuance and technically superb playing.

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