Antonio Ciacca / Antonio Ciacca Quintet / Steve Grossman

Lagos Blues

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Antonio Ciacca's second CD for Motéma Music reunites him with an old mentor, veteran tenor saxophonist Steve Grossman, plus his regular band featuring tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, bassist Kengo Nakamura, and drummer Ulysses Owens. While the leader is a talented soloist, he isn't one to hog the spotlight. Grossman penned two of the pieces. The tenors roar in Grossman's driving modal blues “Take the D Train," while “Nicoletta" is a robust ballad showcasing the big tone of its composer. Ciacca's works include the tense Latin-flavored “Lagos Blues" and the lovely “Nico's Song," a thinly disguised reworking of “All the Things You Are," which has some intricate unison lines for piano and bass. The sauntering take of Paul Chambers' infrequently performed blues “Whims of Chambers" is full of playfulness, with a choice solo by Nakamura. The standard “Body and Soul" has been recorded so often that it is hard to find new ground, though Ciacca's unusual accompaniment behind Grossman and Dillard give it a new flavor. The closing medley of two Duke Ellington compositions is enjoyable, though with some minor shortcomings. The single solo chorus of “Reflections in D" is played a little too fast (as the late Bill Evans said, it is a work that needs little alteration). The rhythm section is added for “In a Sentimental Mood" and while this piece is more successful, it is faded in mid-phrase. In any case, these are minor quibbles and Antonio Ciacca has definitely made a case as a jazz pianist and composer to watch.

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