For those who became acquainted with Nicola Conte via his Bossa Per Due and Jet Sounds Revisited, Other Directions will come as a real surprise. Along with being a producer and DJ, Conte is a classically trained musician who is a multi-instrumentalist and a very accomplished arranger. His previous work in the acid jazz and electronic bossa movements could not have prepared listeners for this solid jazz and bossa nova set. Working with a tough, top-notch group of Italian jazz players -- the country's jazz scene has a built-in lyricism, whether in the vanguard realm or in the "tradition" that puts most American counterparts to shame in terms of swing -- Conte uses all but his DJ skills to create a musical tapestry that reflects the perfect meld of jazz and bossa that occurred in the early '60s while moving both musics forward with his sophisticated yet soulful and accessible arrangements. Till Bronner guests on "Sea and Sand," the disc's first cut, playing trumpet and singing in his plaintive, Chet Baker-derived style (he's a more proficient singer than his mentor). On "Wanin' Moon," Bembe Segue gets the vocal nod, but it's saxophonist Daniele Scannapieco and flugelhornist Fabrizio Bosso with their exotic yet bluesy solos that take the cake on the tune. The Afro-Brazilian rhythmics on "Nefertiti," (no relation to the Miles Davis tune) drive a wordless vocal and tight horn section that counters the intense polyrhythms as Bosso's trumpet takes the first break, wailing in the middle register with relatively few notes to capture the dark groove perfectly. Pierpaolo Bisogno's vibraphone keeps soloists and percussionists anchored in the groove. "A time for Spring" gently nods toward "Take Five," for its intro, before becoming a shimmering, pop-jazz nugget that combines bossa, cool, and post-bop. Truth be told, there isn't a dud in the bunch. The vibe is relaxed, the music open, even when complex -- check out "Dharma Bums" -- and the execution is precise and full of soulful, airy grooves. Bossa nova is the wheel on which everything turns here, and Conte knows how to shade and color his harmonics with texture and chromatic subtlety. This is a jazz record for folks who don't really like jazz, but jazz fans will be delighted by its many twists and turns, never forsaking vamps or lyricism for rhythm, while making rhythm a central tenet of each composition. This is a winner through and through. It's a shame it was only issued on Blue Note in Europe (the American label is largely clueless and is trying to score pop radio hits these days while issuing the same jazz records over and over). Other Directions is the perfect recording for American fans of fine jazz and bossa nova. It's hip, elegant, graceful, and smart.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek