Gianni Basso

Live at Down Town

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This set of standards by Italian tenor boss Gianni Basso with Guido Manusardi's piano trio is notable only for two things: the poor sound -- the stereo needs to be turned nearly all the way up for the listener to be able to engage the entire band -- and for the extremely snoozy choice of material. Coming from the Johnny Griffin school of tenor players, Basso has a warm, slightly raw tone that encourages the more R&B side of the jazz canon for its fullest expression. Basso plays Coltrane on "Bye Bye Blackbird," a tune he can pull off melodically, but improvisationally he relates with clich├ęs that dip back into the blues book on the changes. He doesn't extend them or invert them, he merely blows over them -- and loudly -- so the rest of the band is buried in the mix. As for other standards like "Old Folks," "There Is No Greater Love," "The Man I Love," and "I Close My Eyes," the performances are adequate but never heat up past lukewarm. Manusardi is a fine accompanist, but hardly a refined soloist; his own breaks are filled with chordal reworking of the tune's harmony for exactly the same number of choruses (four) before turning it over to Basso, who slips through the motions of playing half the melody and harmonically extrapolating tune after tune. Yes, this is jazz but, for all its lyricism and good intentions, it's mediocre.

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