Quartetto di Lucca


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Quartetto di Lucca (1957-1967) is notable in the history of Italian jazz for launching the careers of the brothers Tomasso: bassist Giovanni and pianist Vito. The group's other members included vibraphonist Antonello Vannucchi (later of Marc 4 fame) and drummer Giampiero Giusti. All but the latter were also composers and arrangers. This self-titled album is their third; it was recorded and released in 1964 after a somewhat confusing name change -- they were previously known as the 4 of Lucca. This is the sound of a mature and seamless group seasoned by extensive touring and exposure to American jazz musicians (they backed Chet Baker on his Italian tour and residency, and later toured the States on their own). While the standards on this reissue (which adds three bonus tracks from 45s to the original sessions) are lovely -- Benny Goodman's "Soft Winds," Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia," and Jimmy Van Heusen's elegant ballad "Like Someone in Love," it is on the original material that this unit shines brightest. Vito's "Quartetto" reveals the deep influence of the Modern Jazz Quartet with its strident, classically informed harmonic changes and the band's ability to swing in even the most difficult of rhythmic circumstances. Vannucchi's "Gabry" is a sprightly bop tune modeled on the blues with excellent exchanges between vibes and piano in the head as Giusti whispers and slides into the groove on the hi-hat and snare. Giovanni doesn't so much walk the changes as dictate them, adding earth to the breezy dialogue of the lead instruments. His "Blues for Carole No. 2" reveals the depth of his own melodic invention as he takes the melody while his brother comps through the intro. After the bassist takes a deep, woody, and fleet solo, Giusti enters in cut time and swings like mad. To the listener's surprise and delight, Giovanni takes a second, even more propulsive solo to carry it out. For fans of Italian jazz, this Schema/Rearward reissue has wonderful sound, the original liner notes with an English translation, and it's encased in a fine gatefold presentation, restoring an important yet now obscure masterpiece of '60s Italian mod jazz just before it embraced pop so wholeheartedly.

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