Daniele Cavallanti / Guido Mazzon

Our Prayer

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While it would hardly be amiss to coin Daniele Cavallanti one of the unsung giants of Italian jazz, he is so much more that the characterization alone does not do him justice. As a key member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra, and an important sideman and soloist, Cavallanti has, for years, modestly toyed with the fringes of melody, making an important contribution to what might be called a post-jazz aesthetic. That effort continues here, as the tenor saxophonist helps guide a quintet and an extended septet through an eclectic mix of tunes, from Don Ayler's very Ayler-esque "Our Prayer," Roscoe Mitchell's well-known "Reese," and the TV novelty theme "Mary Hartman Mary Hartman" to outstanding compositions by Cavallanti and trumpeter Guido Mazzon, co-leader of Gruppo Contemporaneo. The tunes, including "Mary Hartman Mary Hartman," are played surprisingly respectfully, with attractively tight harmonies, and the stellar sound quality leaves an ambience of "you were there." Tempos are generally slightly upbeat, with consistently electrifying solos. Both groups are piano-less with two basses, the septet adding trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini and alto saxophonist Massimo Falascone for the final two tracks, with the legendary trombonist making some of his finest contributions on disc. There must have been something in the water in Milan when this was recorded, as Mazzon and Cavallanti appear in superb form, the latter pouring on the technical bravura on "Loss of Brotherhood of Breath," a highlight of the disc. Like Cavallanti, Mazzon is another magnificent Italian performer registering low on the radar screen. The trumpeter's brash yet never overdone sound and mid-range facility complement and feed the saxophonist's fanciful flights and sometimes simply state a head in tandem, à la Bird and Diz, or Ornette and Don Cherry, or even the Ayler brothers. While so many things about this album shine -- from the two powerful string basses of Giovanni Maier and the lesser known Andres di Biase to Tiziano Tononi's not-to-be-missed foundational support on drums -- it is the tremendously talented writing skills of the co-leaders and their impressive renditions of the other pieces that set this one apart from the pack. There is a timeless quality to it all, an almost eerie sense that the wails and cries of the seemingly enduring melodies and arrangements have been heard many times before.

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