Mediterranea Suite

Diego Spitaleri

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Mediterranea Suite Review

by Thom Jurek

Pianist Diego Spitaleri is one of Italy's fine if overlooked treasures. He is a musician of amazing dexterity and a keen sense of harmonic development as both a soloist and an arranger. While his compositional influences range from Ellington and Strayhorn to Stan Kenton and Miles Davis, his technical influences are those wonders of the keys such as Lennie Tristano, Mal Waldron, McCoy Tyner, and even Bobby Timmons. Tristano, with his high-flung sense of counterpoint and chromatic indulgence, is most prominent here, especially on "Rose," "Dottor P.C.," and "The Night of Flight." Ellington can be heard in Spitaleri's lyricism on the Duke's own "In a Sentimental Mood" and "Fragment for Duke," as Tyner makes his presence felt on the modalism of "Icarus" and the extended suspended chord voicings in "Mediterranean Suite." Of course none of this would make a whit of difference if Spitaleri hadn't created his own synthesis of these jazz images as both a composer and as an improviser. Like so many jazzers of his generation in Italy, melodicism is paramount to making something not only swing, but move beyond the realm of jazz itself. To this end, Spitaleri and his accompanists -- bassist Paolina Dalla Porta and drummer Paolo Mappa -- have dedicated themselves. Everything on this date flows like water down a stream, changing as it moves, eddying, whirling, and finally flowing freely once again until it encounters something else it needs to engage. This is jazz at its most elegant and ornate, but not in a florid way. The ornamentation Spitaleri layers into his music is the ornament of tradition as it evolves from one space intervallically to the next, mutating just enough to retain the stamp of the previous while fully engaging the next set of musical and linguistic criteria. In this way the soul of the music remains, and its heartbeat emerges fluidly in positively wondrous solos and group interplay. Mediterranean Suite is a masterpiece of melodic and harmonic invention.

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