Antonello Salis

Live in Como

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Italian jazz heroes pianist Antonello Salis and saxophonist Sandro Satta are a dynamic force to be reckoned with. From the first moments of this date recorded live in Como, they are off and running through the elegant, lyrical pieces composed by Salis, who uses every Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett trick in the book to get his harmonic ideas -- which are outrageously ambitious -- across. He equates lyricism and consonance with open improvisation and whole-tone tunings on his piano. Where this leaves room for Sandro Satta is anybody's guess, but he's there, wringing out the melody from these large augmented chords that churn, patter, and swirl about him. There is an Eastern notion to Salis' music, too, that repetition is somehow the formula for "getting it right." His melodies find themselves touching on similar themes and variations until they break themselves down, convinced they have it all straight. This is where the true improvisation begins, and Satta is only too willing to take his big, Gato Barbieri-like tone down into a maelstrom so total, yet so clean in its dramatic purpose, that his tonal investigations contribute to the harmonic tapestry laid out in the melody. Over and over for over an hour, the duo weaves this particular magic, instinctually flying over one another only to return with something else, something new to bring to a composition that was perfect in the first place. How deeply soulful and funky all of this is as they run through the blues "E Se Non Fosse Cosi?" or the vanguard modalism of Coltrane on "Impro 3" or the deep, strident jazz classicism of Mingus on "Verderame." This date has only one drawback: Its sound is rough around the edges, where things drop out from time to time. Other than that, it's perfect. Just perfect. American jazzers should be paying a lot more attention to what's happening in Italy, before they lose music their fathers and grandfathers created.

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