Paolo Fresu

Live in Montpellier

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Picking out a single live date of the Paolo Fresu Quintet for release must be a difficult thing indeed. Recorded in 1988, this album of the band -- Fresu (trumpet), Tino Tracanna (saxophones), Roberto Cipelli (piano), Attilio Zanchi (bass), and Ettore Fioravanti (drums) -- was made when Fresu was just a Young Turk, bringing his group and its electronic devices to a festival in Montpellier to reinvent modern Italian jazz. Here, with subtle electronic sounds and sweeping percussive textures, the front line of Tracanna and Fresu weaves a hypnotic spell of intrigue and jazz danger, full of originals and well-placed covers -- including a highly idiosyncratic and deeply satisfying read of Monk's "Well, You Needn't" inserted into the middle of two sections of Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed"! The Cooper tune, taken apart from its insipid pop melody, is reinvented both harmonically and rhythmically, allowing for Monk's masterpiece to flow seamlessly right into the center, take it over with all of its angular speculation, and retreat as the former number restates its own theme -- this time more prominently than before -- with a swinging elegance that the original never had. Also notable is the Fresu composition "In Parte Senz'arte," a two-part figure that almost Baroquely states itself as a theme and then becomes an intricate set of rhythmic -- even funky -- changes over a languid, bluesy melody. Phenomenal.

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