Paolo Fresu

Ensalada Mistica

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Trumpeter Paolo Fresu is ubiquitous on both the Italian and international jazz scenes. Unlike many of his countrymen, Fresu doesn't dabble; he's a fully committed jazzer, so it's not a surprise that this set is in the contemporary creative jazz vein. But to call it stodgy or old fashioned would be to miss the point; this is some of the most forward-looking ensemble composing and playing that the Italians have come up with -- and it beats the hell out of a lot of stuff on this side of the Atlantic, and even gives the Dutch semi-big bands a run for their money. Fresu's front line consists of himself, Gianluigi Trovesi on bass clarinet and alto, Tino Tracanna on soprano and tenor, Roberto Cipelli on piano, Attilo Zanchi on bass, and Ettore Firoavanti on skins. With the three horns in front, the band moves in between the smaller settings of the Mingus sextet and septet, and the strolling cool of Tadd Dameron's sextet, and some of the Shelly Manne bands with Conte Condoli. Sprightly and languid tempos are interwoven in Fresu's compositions, such as the gorgeous blues "Transperencia," where Fresu's original melodic line in 7/8 falls back to a very slow 4/4 by the bridge, and the solos take place at a painterly, graceful pace. Other notables are the steaming "Walkabout," with its deeply convoluted but deftly swinging front line melody, and "Plastic," with its burning trumpet solo. The most delightful tracks on the album are the two takes of "Fellini," in which Fresu uses the filmmaker's greatest movie themes and mutates them with his own homebrew jazz, á la Strayhorn's harmonic palette and a colored textural base that includes the striking "Ysabel's Table Dance" from Mingus' Tijuana Moods album.

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