Salvatore Bonafede

Plays Gershwin

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It's easy to be wary of a single artist's program by any jazzer. It's even easier for American xenophobia to take over when that program is by an artist so hallowed it is (in limited vision) virtually impossible to see -- or hear -- anyone but an American performing that program. So here's an Italian jazzman recording an all-Gershwin program. Bonafede is one of Italy's premier jazzmen, and for that matter, one of the piano's. Recorded in New York with maestro bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Michael Sarine, Bonafede takes eight of Gershwin's non-symphonic tunes -- those written with Ira -- like "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Summertime," "Oh, Lady Be Good," "Who Cares?," "Love Is Here to Stay," and others, and gives them the lyrical Italian treatment as well as the updating they deserve rhythmically in the post-bop idiom, and comes up with something that Gershwin himself would have lit another smoke to while snapping his fingers and tapping his foot. No mean feat, eh? Bonafede's secret to playing standard tunes is his way of decomposing a tune's rhythm in the front end and then beginning to rebuild and recompose that same rhythm in his solos and out in the back where the harmonies shift and the changes fall like bowling pins. When you add Brown's unbelievably astute bass playing to this equation (check out his truly unbelievably phrased pizzicato solo on "A Foggy Day") with a drummer who rides the meter rather than plays through or above it, you have a powerhouse of a trio. And here, Bonafede's truly jazzed-out treatment of Gershwin is more than intuitive and musically unique, it's a downright reinvention of these tunes as small jazz masterpieces rather than as pop songs. There are few Americans who could equal this feat.

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